Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2018, Article ID 5438179, 10 pages
Review Article

Anticancer Activity of Sulforaphane: The Epigenetic Mechanisms and the Nrf2 Signaling Pathway

1Key Laboratory of Pathobiology, Ministry of Education, Jilin University, Changchun, China
2Department of Radiation Oncology, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China
3Department of Internal Medicine, Florida Hospital, Orlando, FL, USA
4Department of Pathology, Shanxi Medical University, Taiyuan, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Ying Xin; nc.ude.ulj@ynix

Received 22 January 2018; Revised 27 April 2018; Accepted 8 May 2018; Published 6 June 2018

Academic Editor: Sharad S. Singhal

Copyright © 2018 Xuling Su et al. 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.


Sulforaphane (SFN), a compound derived from cruciferous vegetables that has been shown to be safe and nontoxic, with minimal/no side effects, has been extensively studied due to its numerous bioactivities, such as anticancer and antioxidant activities. SFN exerts its anticancer effects by modulating key signaling pathways and genes involved in the induction of apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, and inhibition of angiogenesis. SFN also upregulates a series of cytoprotective genes by activating nuclear factor erythroid-2- (NF-E2-) related factor 2 (Nrf2), a critical transcription factor activated in response to oxidative stress; Nrf2 activation is also involved in the cancer-preventive effects of SFN. Accumulating evidence supports that epigenetic modification is an important factor in carcinogenesis and cancer progression, as epigenetic alterations often contribute to the inhibition of tumor-suppressor genes and the activation of oncogenes, which enables cells to acquire cancer-promoting properties. Studies on the mechanisms underlying the anticancer effects of SFN have shown that SFN can reverse such epigenetic alterations in cancers by targeting DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), histone deacetyltransferases (HDACs), and noncoding RNAs. Therefore, in this review, we will discuss the anticancer activities of SFN and its mechanisms, with a particular emphasis on epigenetic modifications, including epigenetic reactivation of Nrf2.