Scientists: Cabbage Chemical Could Treat Ovarian Cancer

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Scientists - Cabbage Chemical Could Treat Ovarian Cancer
Scientists: Cabbage Chemical Could Treat Ovarian Cancer. Photo © Adobe Stock 47496493 (under license).

Ovarian cancer is the second leading gynecological cancer that affects American women. Over 22,500 cases occur each year in the USA alone, with most cases sadly not being diagnosed early enough for effective treatment. The low salience and lack of effective screening tests are contributing factors to the continued rise in ovarian cancer cases and the high mortality rate. [1]

Fighting Cancer With Cabbage?

Cabbage is rich in a substance called diindolylmethane or DIM. This substance is found in most Brassica vegetables and has been found by scientists to be able to suppress tumor growth and development in cases of ovarian cancer. [2]


One of the main factors involved in the progression of ovarian cancer is STAT3 – which stands for signal transducer and activator of transcription 3. This allows the cancer cells to multiply and metastasize all over the body, as well as building the cancer cells’ resistance to cisplatin – a chemotherapeutic agent. Previous studies have found out that hyperactivation of STAT3 is found in the majority of ovarian cancer cases—which is why a lot of research is being done to find out how to stop STAT3 activation in the body. [2]

In the same 2012 study, [2] DIM was shown to actively protect the cells from STAT3 activation and promote cancer cell death (apoptosis). DIM treatment was tested on mice affected with ovarian cancer. Compared to the control group of cisplatin-only treatment, DIM-only and DIM plus cisplatin treatments were able to significantly retard the growth of the tumors. The same study also revealed minimal toxic effects of DIM on human cells, indicating strong potential that this may not only contribute to risk reduction but yield a potential future treatment for ovarian cancer in humans. [2][3]


DIM was shown by another study to not only have chemotherapeutic properties but to be non-toxic to normal cells [4] This amazing selectivity indicates great potential for the use of DIM in ovarian cancer management compared to most chemotherapy drugs – because drugs (such as taxane) that are used in the clinic to treat ovarian cancer are associated with severe systemic toxicity and side effects. [3]

Clinical Trials!

YES, clinical trials! A clinical trial of DIM in Boulder, Colorado, USA demonstrated that 50% of cervical cancer patients showed improvement (Del Priore et al., 2010). At median follow-up of 6 months, 85% of subjects did not require loop electrosurgical excision procedure (surgery) due to their improved prognosis. DIM is also being evaluated in clinical trials for prostate cancer.

It has been known for some time that an inverse relationship exists between cancer diagnoses and intake of cruciferous vegetables. But these important scientific results represent a tangible step forward in the battle against cancer. Including more cabbage (and vegetables from the same family!) in your daily meals may have potential to reduce your risk for ovarian cancer or even fighting cancer if you have already been diagnosed. Aside from eating vegetables raw, steaming them is the best way to preserve nutritional content – so try to have a side of steamed cabbage daily.


[1] American Cancer Society. Learn About Cancer.

[2] Kandala, P. & Srivastava, S. (2012). Diindolylmethane suppresses ovarian cancer growth and potentiates the effect of cisplatin in tumor mouse model by targeting signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3).

[3] Kandala, P., Wright, S. & Srivastava, S. (2012). Blocking Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Activation by 3,3′-Diindolylmethane Suppresses Ovarian Tumor Growth In Vitro and In Vivo.

[4] Rahman and Sarkar, (2005). Inhibition of nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-{kappa}B contributes to 3,3′-diindolylmethane-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

[5] Oral diindolylmethane (DIM): pilot evaluation of a nonsurgical treatment for cervical dysplasia. (2010)

[6] A phase I dose-escalation study of oral BR-DIM (BioResponse 3,3′- Diindolylmethane) in castrate-resistant, non-metastatic prostate cancer. (2010)

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