Chili Peppers Inhibit Cancer Growth

Image: Chili Peppers Inhibit Cancer Growth

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By Sylvia Booth Hubbard   |   Tuesday, 03 Jan 2017 11:36 AM

A powerful cancer fighter may be found in your favorite winter meal — a steaming bowl of chili loaded with hot chili peppers. Scientists at Germany’s Ruhr-University Bochum found that capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers that gives them their heat, slowed the development of breast cancer cells.
Researchers used a cell culture that was a model for triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of cancer that is difficult to treat. Currently, the only treatment is chemotherapy.

The scientists found that when they added capsaicin to cell cultures for several hours or days, it switched on a cell receptor called TRPV1, a pathway that controls which substances are able to go in and out of the cell.
Once the TRPV1 is activated, the cancer cell begins to self-destruct. They divided more slowly and died in larger numbers than usual. In addition, cells that survived couldn’t move as quickly, which indicated they were less able to form metastases.

“If we could switch on the TRPV1 receptor with specific drugs, this might constitute a new treatment approach for this type of cancer,” says researcher Hanns Hatt, who believes that simply eating food containing chili peppers wouldn’t be enough to treat triple-negative breast cancer.
Other studies have found that capsaicin also fights other types of cancers. “Capsaicin is capable of inducing apoptosis (cell death) and inhibiting cancer cell growth in many different types of cancer, for example, osteosarcoma, colon, and pancreatic cancer cells, while normal cells remained unharmed,” researcher Dr. Lea Weber wrote in the journal Breast Cancer — Targets and Therapy.

In 2016, 246,660 new cases of invasive cancer were projected to be diagnosed, along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. Over 40,000 American women die from the disease each year.

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