Beans Beans the Magic Fruit

Soy isoflavones enhance radiation results in lung cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Isoflavones from soybeans have an amplifying effect on radiation treatment for lung cancer. In a recent study, radiologists made a concoction out of natural soybean isoflavones, a type of plant estrogen found mainly in soybeans, and injected the lung cancer cells with the concoction before applying  radiation.

Not only did they find the pretreatment of soy isoflavones made the radiation more effective in killing cancer cells, it also protected the healthy cells around the cancer cells from being destroyed.

"Treating lung cancer cells with soy isoflavones before radiation enhances results."

Dr. Gilda Hillman, an associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Wayne State University's School of Medicine and her team found that the natural soy isoflavones in soybeans can sensitize cancer cells in human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to the effects of radiotherapy.

Moreover, they can also act as antioxidants in normal tissues, limiting the unwanted destruction of the healthy cells caused by radiation.

Earlier, the researchers prepared the lung cancer cells with only genistein (an isoflavone) and found that pure genistein demonstrated similar antitumor activity in human NSCLC cell lines as well as enhancing the effects of EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

The soy concoction Hillman used to prepare the cells was composed of natural non-toxic components of soybeans including genistein, daidzein and glycitein. The new soy concotion, which is consistent with soy isoflavone pills that have already been proven safe, had an even greater antitumor effect than the pure genistein.

When NSCLC cells were treated with the soy isoflavones before radiation, more DNA damage and less repair activity occurred than using only radiation on the NSCLC cells. The study demonstrates soy isoflavones block DNA repair mechanisms, which are turned on by the cancer cells to survive the radiation damage.

Cancer is diagnosed in over 12 million people each year, kills over 7 million and one out of every three people will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer at some point in their lifetime in the United States. Cancer is a group of diseases classified by abnormal and uncontrolled cellular growth in a particular organ or tissue type in the body. Cancer is caused by a multitude of factors including genetics and infections, but a majority of cancers can be attributed to environmental causes, such as smoking, and being exposed to carcinogens or radiation. Cancer will produce symptoms that affect the organ it is located in, such as coughing and shortness of breath from a lung cancer, constipation and bloody stools from colon cancer, or headaches and cognitive problems from a brain cancer. Other cancers such as leukemia and blood cancers may produce flu-like symptoms and sudden infections. Some cancers may be discovered by physical evidence, such as feeling a lump in breast cancer. Treatment for cancer is usually one of, or a combination of, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Newer treatments such as hormonal drugs and targeted drugs (Herceptin in breast cancer, Erbitux in colon cancer, Avastin in several) are making cancer treatment even more specific to the patient and the disease. Diagnosis is based off of physical examination and several imaging techniques such as MRI, PET scan laparoscopy and when a pathologist examines a piece of cancerous tissue.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 1, 2011
Last Updated:
April 4, 2011