Capsaicin is the compound that gives chilies their special kick, but while it can easily make some people cry from its fiery taste, it could also be used to cure various types of cancer, including that of the breast, colon or pancreas.
According to experts from Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, the tongue-tingling component can switch on special defenses in cell membranes surrounding cancerous growths, causing them to self-destruct. The cell receptors triggered by chili pepper compound, capsaicin, is called TRPV1, and it controls substances the cancerous growth can feed on. TRPV1 is a receptor and controls which substances – such as calcium and sodium – can go in and out of the cancer cell. As it fights to battle this, the growth eventually self-destructs. As more and more cancer cells die, the tumour is stopped from growing larger.
The scientists added capsaicin and helional – a chemical compound that produces the scent of fresh sea breeze – to cultured tumor cell samples from breast cancer patients. After the activation, the cancer cells slowly died but tumor cells died in larger numbers, making the remaining ones weak and unable to move as quickly as before, suggesting that the ability to metastasize was reduced.
Dr Lea Weber, who headed the study, explained the findings in the journal Breast Cancer- Targets and Therapy. “Capsaicin is capable of inducing 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.”
The researchers were motivated about studies suggesting that capsaicin can kill cancer cells and inhibit the growth in several cancer types. Previous studies suggest that transient receptor potential (TRP) channels influence cancer cell growth. They then investigated the expression of TRP channels in a vast amount of breast cancer tissue and also analyze how TRPV1 could be used in breast cancer therapy.
However, before you start ordering your vindaloos extra spicy, they say it isn’t effective when eaten, inhaled or even ejected. Researchers have found that capsaicin is at its most effective when taken in pill form and attached to another cancer-targeting drug.