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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 402386, 9 pages
Review Article

Cytotoxic and Antitumor Activity of Sulforaphane: The Role of Reactive Oxygen Species

1Department of Biomolecular Sciences, University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”, 61029 Urbino, Italy
2Department for Life Quality Studies, Alma Mater Studiorum-University of Bologna, 47921 Rimini, Italy

Received 17 September 2014; Revised 3 December 2014; Accepted 31 May 2015

Academic Editor: Afaf K. El-Ansary

Copyright © 2015 Piero Sestili and Carmela Fimognari. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


According to recent estimates, cancer continues to remain the second leading cause of death and is becoming the leading one in old age. Failure and high systemic toxicity of conventional cancer therapies have accelerated the identification and development of innovative preventive as well as therapeutic strategies to contrast cancer-associated morbidity and mortality. In recent years, increasing body of in vitro and in vivo studies has underscored the cancer preventive and therapeutic efficacy of the isothiocyanate sulforaphane. In this review article, we highlight that sulforaphane cytotoxicity derives from complex, concurring, and multiple mechanisms, among which the generation of reactive oxygen species has been identified as playing a central role in promoting apoptosis and autophagy of target cells. We also discuss the site and the mechanism of reactive oxygen species’ formation by sulforaphane, the toxicological relevance of sulforaphane-formed reactive oxygen species, and the death pathways triggered by sulforaphane-derived reactive oxygen species.