Molecular basis for chemoprevention by sulforaphane: a comprehensive review

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2007 May;64(9):1105-27. doi: 10.1007/s00018-007-6484-5.


The consumption of cruciferous vegetables has long been associated with a reduced risk in the occurrence of cancer at various sites, including the prostate, lung, breast and colon. This protective effect is attributed to isothiocyanates present in these vegetables, and sulforaphane (SF), present in broccoli, is by far the most extensively studied to uncover the mechanisms behind this chemoprotection. The major mechanism by which SF protects cells was traditionally thought to be through Nrf2-mediated induction of phase 2 detoxification enzymes that elevate cell defense against oxidative damage and promote the removal of carcinogens. However, it is becoming clear that there are multiple mechanisms activated in response to SF, including suppression of cytochrome P450 enzymes, induction of apoptotic pathways, suppression of cell cycle progression, inhibition of angiogenesis and anti-inflammatory activity. Moreover, these mechanisms seem to have some degree of interaction to synergistically afford chemoprevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis
  • DNA Adducts
  • Diet
  • Enzymes / chemistry
  • Enzymes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / prevention & control
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / prevention & control
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates / therapeutic use*
  • Vegetables


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • DNA Adducts
  • Enzymes
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates
  • sulforaphane