Inhibition of human breast cancer xenograft growth by cruciferous vegetable constituent benzyl isothiocyanate

Mol Carcinog. 2010 May;49(5):500-7. doi: 10.1002/mc.20600.


Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC), a constituent of cruciferous vegetables such as garden cress, inhibits growth of human breast cancer cell lines in culture. The present study was undertaken to determine in vivo efficacy of BITC against MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer xenografts. The BITC administration retarded growth of MDA-MB-231 cells subcutaneously implanted in female nude mice without causing weight loss or any other side effects. The BITC-mediated suppression of MDA-MB-231 xenograft growth correlated with reduced cell proliferation as revealed by immunohistochemical analysis for Ki-67 expression. Analysis of the vasculature in the tumors from BITC-treated mice indicated smaller vessel area compared with control tumors based on immunohistochemistry for angiogenesis marker CD31. The BITC-mediated inhibition of angiogenesis in vivo correlated with downregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor 2 protein levels in the tumor. Consistent with these results, BITC treatment suppressed VEGF secretion and VEGF receptor 2 protein levels in cultured MDA-MB-231 cells. Moreover, the BITC-treated MDA-MB-231 cells exhibited reduced capacity for migration compared with vehicle-treated control cells. In contrast to cellular data, BITC administration failed to elicit apoptotic response as judged by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling assay. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates in vivo anti-cancer efficacy of BITC against MDA-MB-231 xenografts in association with reduced cell proliferation and suppression of neovascularization. These preclinical observations merit clinical investigation to determine efficacy of BITC against human breast cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Vegetables*


  • Isothiocyanates
  • benzyl isothiocyanate