Cancer Prevention: Phenethyl Isothiocyanate (PEITC)

brussel sprouts (source of peitc)               broccoli (source of peitce)

Classified as:

structure of peitc
Structure of Phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC)

Intro and Background
PEITC is mostly found in brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower).12 Large population studies suggest that people who eat more brassica vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer. 3

Please read our notice regarding CAM and chemopreventive methods.


Scientific Research
PEITC has been found to inhibit the growth of tumor cells and induce apoptosis in cancer cells growing in the laboratory.456 In mice, treatment with PEITC has been shown to reduce the development of breast and prostate cancers.78  PEITC has been shown to be selectively toxic to lung cancer cells and as of August 2012 PEITC was being tested in clinical trials for its ability to prevent the development of lung cancer in smokers (

Learn MORE about apoptosis

For more information about ongoing clinical trials involving PEITC, please visit our section on Finding Clinical Trials.


US Food and Drug Administration Approval
At this time there is not enough conclusive evidence that PEITC can effectively prevent cancer. For this reason, PEITC has not been approved for cancer prevention by the FDA.

  • 1. Fahey JW, Zalcmann AT, Talalay P. The chemical diversity and distribution of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates among plants. Phytochemistry. 2001;56(1):5-51. [PUBMED]
  • 2. Zhang Y. Cancer-preventive isothiocyanates: measurement of human exposure and mechanism of action. Mutat Res. 2004;555(1-2):173-190. [PUBMED]
  • 3. Rose P, Huang Q, Ong CN, Whiteman M. Broccoli and watercress suppress matrix metalloproteinase-9 activity and invasiveness of human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol (2005). [PUBMED]
  • 4. a. b. Pawlik A, Szczepanski MA, Klimaszewska A, Gackowska L, Zuryn A, Grzanka A. Phenethyl isothiocyanate-induced cytoskeletal changes and cell death in lung cancer cells.Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jul 27. [Epub ahead of print] [PUBMED]
  • 5. Chan DK, Miskimins WK. Metformin and phenethyl isothiocyanate combined treatment in vitro is cytotoxic to ovarian cancer cultures. J Ovarian Res. 2012 Jul 10;5(1):19. [Epub ahead of print] [PUBMED]
  • 6. Syed Alwi SS, Cavell BE, Donlevy A, Packham G.Differential induction of apoptosis in human breast cancer cell lines by phenethyl isothiocyanate, a glutathione depleting agent. Cell Stress Chaperones. 2012 Sep;17(5):529-38. Epub 2012 Feb 17. [PUBMED]
  • 7. Singh SV, Kim SH, Sehrawat A, Arlotti JA, Hahm ER, Sakao K, Beumer JH, Jankowitz RC, Chandra-Kuntal K, Lee J, Powolny AA, Dhir R. Biomarkers of Phenethyl Isothiocyanate-Mediated Mammary Cancer Chemoprevention in a Clinically Relevant Mouse Model. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 Aug 2. [Epub ahead of print] [PUBMED]
  • 8. Powolny AA, Bommareddy A, Hahm ER, Normolle DP, Beumer JH, Nelson JB, Singh SV. Chemopreventative potential of the cruciferous vegetable constituent phenethyl isothiocyanate in a mouse model of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Apr 6;103(7):571-84. Epub 2011 Feb 17. [PUBMED]