Soy Increases Radiation’s Effectiveness in Fighting Lung Cancer, Study Says

Findings from a new study indicate that soy appears to increase radiation’s ability to kill lung cancer cells.

According to researchers from Wayne State University, a component in soybeans, called soy isoflavones, not only increases radiation’s effectiveness in fighting cancer cells – it also protects normal lung cells against radiation injury.

Lead researcher Gilda Hillman, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine and the Karmanos Cancer Institute, and her team demonstrated that cells that were treated with soy isoflavones before radiation showed more DNA damage and less repair activity than cells that received only radiation treatment.

“Natural soy isoflavones can sensitize cancer cells to the effects of radiotherapy by inhibiting the survival mechanisms that cancer cells activate to protect themselves,” Hillman explained.

“At the same time,” she added, “soy isoflavones can also act as antioxidants, which protect normal tissues against unintended damage from the radiotherapy.”

Previous research has shown that pure genistein is also an effective treatment against lung cancer when used in conjunction with radiation, though Hillman says that her findings suggest that soy may be even more potent than genistein.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, over 200,000 people in the US were diagnosed with cancer in 2007.  Over 150,000 died from the disease.

Risk factors for lung cancer include smoking, secondhand smoke, exposure to asbestos and family history.

The study was published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.