Quantitative determination of 3,3'-diindolylmethane in urine of individuals receiving indole-3-carbinol

Nutr Cancer. 2001;41(1-2):57-63. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2001.9680612.


Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) or, more correctly, its acid condensation products act as chemoprotective agents via several mechanisms. It induces the expression of cytochrome P-450 1A1, which shifts the estrogen metabolic pathway in favor of C-2 hydroxylation and away from the formation of 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone, a suspected endogenous carcinogen. Increased 16 alpha-hydroxylation of estrogen is associated with greater risk of cancer of the cervix, breast, endometrium, and larynx. The production of 4-hydroxyestrone is also inhibited by I3C. I3C can induce a G1 cell cycle arrest in human MCF-7 breast cancer cells. It can suppress aberrant crypt foci. I3C significantly inhibits the cell adhesion, spreading, and invasion associated with an upregulation of PTEN (a tumor suppressor gene) and E-cadherin (a regulator of cell-cell adhesion) expression in T47-D human breast cancer cells. Thus I3C exhibits anticancer activities by suppressing breast tumor cell growth and metastatic spread. A gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method for the quantitation of diindolylmethane, the principal acid condensation product of I3C, has been developed for use in determining compliance in subjects who have been treated with I3C. The method utilizes a 1-ml urine sample. We have used this method to correlate I3C ingestion with regression of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia in a population of women at risk for cervical cancer. The assay provides an objective marker of consumption using a noninvasive biological fluid and illustrates that diindolylmethane may be used as a marker of compliance in I3C dietary intervention studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / drug therapy
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / urine
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Indoles / administration & dosage
  • Indoles / pharmacokinetics*
  • Indoles / urine*
  • Placebos
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Indoles
  • Placebos
  • indole-3-carbinol
  • 3,3'-diindolylmethane