Sulforaphane as an anticancer molecule: mechanisms of action, synergistic effects, enhancement of drug safety, and delivery systems

Arch Pharm Res. 2020 Apr;43(4):371-384. doi: 10.1007/s12272-020-01225-2. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate compound that has been derived from cruciferous vegetables. It was shown in numerous studies to be active against multiple cancer types including pancreatic, prostate, breast, lung, cervical, and colorectal cancers. Sulforaphane exerts its therapeutics action by a variety of mechanisms, such as by detoxifying carcinogens and oxidants through blockage of phase I metabolic enzymes, and by arresting cell cycle in the G2/M and G1 phase to inhibit cell proliferation. The most striking observation was the ability of sulforaphane to potentiate the activity of several classes of anticancer agents including paclitaxel, docetaxel, and gemcitabine through additive and synergistic effects. Although a good number of reviews have reported on the mechanisms by which sulforaphane exerts its anticancer activity, a comprehensive review on the synergistic effect of sulforaphane and its delivery strategies is lacking. Therefore, the aim of the current review was to provide a summary of the studies that have been reported on the activity enhancement effect of sulforaphane in combination with other anticancer therapies. Also provided is a summary of the strategies that have been developed for the delivery of sulforaphane.

Keywords: Cancer; Combination therapy; Drug delivery systems; Isothiocyanates; Sulforaphane; Synergism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / chemistry
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Sulfoxides


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Sulfoxides
  • sulforaphane