A new 10-minute urine test could replace food logs in certain cancer preventative studies. The rapid test can be used to help identify foods that encourage cancer prevention. According to the team of researchers that developed the test, it can reveal whether a person has consumed isothiocyanate compounds within no more than 10 minutes after being taken.
Isothiocyanate compounds are thought to protect against cancer and are contained in several foods we eat. The research behind the new urine test is set to be presented in April at the American Association for Cancer Research 2016 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA. The 10-minute urine tests could go on to replace food logs currently used in cancer research studying the effects of diet on cancer.
Using 10-Minute Urine Tests to Identify Cancer Preventative Foods
Although food logs are being used to study the effects that certain foods have on cancer patients, they are not an entirely reliable method. The new method would be more effective in identifying foods that help prevent cancer. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Cancer Institute, several cruciferous vegetables contain a high amount of fibers, nutrients, carotenoids, vitamins C, E, and K, folate, and minerals.
In addition to these vitamins and nutrients, cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates, which are chemicals that contain sulfur and give these vegetables a pungent aroma and bitter taste. When these vegetables are cooked and digested, the glucosinolates contained in them break down and form a number of compounds such as indoles, isothiocyanates, thiocyanates, and nitriles (ITC’s). Previous research has found that some of these ITC’s can help prevent cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables include kale, Brussels sprouts, arugula, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, watercress, and rutabaga. Studies conducted on animals have shown that the ITC’s created by consuming the glucosinolates found in these vegetables can inhibit the development of several types of cancer in the bladder, stomach, liver, breast, colon, and lungs.
The new rapid urine tests can help identify traces of isothiocyanate compounds and show whether a person has consumed foods containing these beneficial compounds within 10 minutes of being taken. The method could be used to track cancer patients’ intake of foods rich in isothiocyanates more accurately.
Cancer Preventative Effects of Isothiocyanates Found In Cruciferous Vegetables
Isothiocyanate compounds found in cruciferous vegetables are believed to have the ability to protect cells from DNA damage. They were also found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects. The compounds inhibit carcinogens and work against tumor blood vessel formation and tumor migration, as they induce cell death.
A Singaporean study that began documenting the impact that diet has on cancer and other diseases back in 1993 has found evidence that these vegetables may, in fact, have a positive effect in preventing cancer. The research studied 63000 middle-aged and older men and women and followed their eating habits. People that took part in the study had to respond to a 165-question assessment that documented how often they ate each kind of food. The research team conducting the study followed up with the participants throughout the years by making telephone calls and, in 2005, provided biospecimens that helped support the fact that cruciferous vegetable consumption aided in preventing cancer.
The research team collected urine samples that, once tested, showed evidence that the compounds obtained from cruciferous vegetables helped protect participants from cancer. The same samples were used in the present study. Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, co-authored the recent study and was also the lead researcher conducting the Singaporean study.
Dr. Jian-Min Yuan and lead author Marcin Dyba, Ph.D., have developed the new urine test, which can look for specific ITCs and other compounds and indicate the concentration of each. According to Dr. Dyba, the fact that these foods are beneficial to human health and to cancer prevention is already well-established and known.
The test that Dr. Dyba, Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, and their team have developed can test for the presence of specific compounds found in those vegetables and indicate the strength of each of these compounds. The 10-minute method will be able to help researchers not only identify the presence of these compounds quickly, it will also allow them to quantify exactly how much of each compound is being consumed by the person and how many molecules are absorbed by the body.
According to Dr. Dyba, the 10-minute urine test will also help scientists which of the compounds associated with the consumption of cruciferous vegetables have the strongest cancer preventive effects. The scientific interest that researchers have at the moment, Dr. Dyba goes on to explain, is in finding out exactly how these compounds work and why the help protect the body against the onset of cancer. In-depth research on the action that these compounds have on the human body could not be achieved solely by studying self-reported food logs.
Future Testing Planned for the 10-Minute Urine Test Method
The 10-minute urine test method is expected to be successfully used to log isothiocyanate compound intake in future studies. Plans are already being made to test the new method on animals in order to see if the consistent intake of these compounds can provide significant protection against cancer. If the results do show that these compounds have a positive effect on overall health and reduce the chances of cancer development, researchers could be able to define stronger dietary guidelines and more efficient dietary supplements for cancer patients.
The 10-minute urine test method, developed by researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, DC, could be used in future population studies examining the effects that certain foods have on cancer risk. Because this testing method can target specific food compounds in the human urine, it can help researchers establish a more accurate link between the effects of an individual’s diet on cancer. This, in turn, will lead to scientists being able to identify and study the most beneficial anticancer foods.