Broccoli Compound DIM Could Protect Healthy Tissues During Radiation Treatments For Cancer

A compound that comes from broccoli and cabbage could help protect healthy tissue from radiation during cancer treatment, a new study in animals suggests.

The compound, 3,3'-diindolylmethane, also known as DIM, was given to rats and mice every day for two weeks, 10 minutes after they were exposed to lethal levels of gamma ray radiation.

While all the animals not treated with DIM afterward died from the radiation, more than half of those treated with it survived 30 days after receiving radiation.

In addition, mice treated with DIM didn't lose as many white and red blood cells or platelets, which is a common problem among people receiving cancer treatments, researchers found.

"DIM has been studied as a cancer prevention agent for years, but this is the first indication that DIM can also act as a radiation protector," study researcher Eliot Rosen, M.D., Ph.D., of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a statement. Researchers also noted that DIM has already been shown in other research to be safe in humans.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"DIM works, in part, by a mechanism distinct from other radioprotectors and mitigators involving stimulation of the DNA damage response, including DNA repair, and activation of cell survival signaling through the transcription factor NF-κB," the researchers wrote in the study.

Recently, a study in the Journal of Surgical Research showed that resveratrol, a compound found in red wine and the skins of red grapes, could help make cancer cells more susceptible to radiation. In that study, 44 percent of melanoma cells treated with resveratrol died, and 65 percent of melanoma cells treated with resveratrol and radiation died.