One of the primary compounds in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can target and kill cancer cells, while leaving normal cells alone, according to findings by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the OSU Agricultural Experiment Station, according to a news release from Produce for Better Health Foundation. The research was published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

The study’s researchers noted that they have shown for the first time that sulforaphane selects benign precancerous cells and cancerous prostate cells, and leaving normal cells unaffected.

The release said sulforaphane is found at high levels in broccoli and cauliflower, as well as other cruciferous vegetables.

Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer for the Hockessin, Del.-based PBH, said the study reinforces the importance of eating cruciferous vegetables.

Scientists say sulforaphane inhibits histone deacetylase, or HDAC enzymes, which is one of the more promising fields of research for cancer treatment. Clinical prevention trials using sulforaphane, in pharmaceutical and dietary applications, are already happening, as a treatment for prostate and breast cancer, according to the release.