Green Way to Harvest Anti-Cancer Agent

Cancer fighting compound extracted from soaked soybeans

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) While there's been a great deal of controversy about the relationship between soy and cancer, a substance found in soybeans has valuable medicinal uses including fighting cancer.

The problem is that harvesting this compound has been costly and complicated. Now there's a simpler, greener way.

The cancer-fighting compound found in soybeans is called Bowman-Birk Protease Inhibitor (BBI). Harvesting this substance is as easy - and green -  as soaking soybeans in warm water.

"Legumes - beans - are inexpensive health foods."

Hari B. Krishnan and colleagues at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) note in their study that Bowman-Birk Protease Inhibitor (BBI) has been extensively studied and found to have anti-tumor properties.

Clinical trials show that the compound may have value in cancer preventative therapies, according to the authors.

The low cancer death rates in Japan may also be related to the BBI consumed in soybean-rich traditional Japanese diet.

Extracting BBI is currently a time-consuming process that uses harsh chemicals. That's why the scientists sought to find an easier, greener and more environmentally friendly way to harvest BBI from soybeans.

Soybeans that are soaked in warm water (122 degrees Fahrenheit) release large amounts of BBI that's easy to reclaim from the water.

In a lab experiment, the scientists found that BBI stopped breast cancer cells from growing in a petri dish.

The researchers said that "The abundance of BBI in soybean incubating the seeds in warm water provides a simple and alternative method to isolate this low molecular weight protein."

The study appears in the May 9, 2012 edition of  the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

This research was funded by Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
May 8, 2012
Last Updated:
May 10, 2012