Chillies Could Help Beat Cancer as Research Finds Capsaicin Destroys Diseased Cells
Chillies could help fight breast cancer after scientists revealed the spicy ingredient causes diseased cells to self destruct.
Capsaicin, the active component that gives chillies their trademark kick, can switch on specialised channels surrounding cancer cells causing them to die.
Other cancers including colon, bone and pancreatic could also be killed off by the compound.
However, capsaicin isn't effective if it's eaten, inhaled or injected, and researchers think it will only be effective as a pill attached to another drug that targets cancer cells.
Scientists from Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, treated human samples of breast cancer cells with the hot ingredient to find out more about its ability to destroy them.
Dr Lea Weber, writing in the journal Breast Cancer - Targets and Therapy, said: "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."
When capsaicin reaches a cancer cell, the spicy ingredient attaches itself to the edge of the cell known as the cell membrane and switches on a cell receptor called TRPV1.
The receptor TRPV1 is a channel that controls what substances such as calcium and sodium go in and out of the cancer cell.
When TRPV1 is switched on by capsaicin, the cancer cell is sent into overdrive and starts to self-destruct.
As more and more cancer cells die, the tumour is stopped from growing larger.
Dr Weber said: "In this study, we aimed to identify the TRP channels in different breast cancer subtypes and to investigate the effect of TRPV1 ligand [capsaicin] on breast cancer progression.
"To our knowledge, no studies have yet conducted a large-scale comparative study of the TRP channels expression profiles in breast cancer cell lines.
"In our experiments, a significant reduction in cell proliferation after capsaicin stimulation was observed.
"This finding was in accordance with the results of other scientists, who demonstrated a significant decrease in the cell growth rate of MCF-7 breast cancer cells upon capsaicin stimulation."
This study was carried out by scientists from the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, the hospital Herz-Jesu-Krankenhaus Dernbach, Germany, and the Centre of Genomics in Cologne, Germany.