Cell, animal studies show potential of capsaicin as lung cancer treatment
Results from a latest study shows that the compound ‘capsaicin’ responsible for chili pepper’s heat could slow the spread of lung cancer, a leading cause of cancer death for both men and women worldwide. Most of the cancer-related deaths occur when cancer spreads to distant sites, a process called metastasis.
“Lung cancer and other cancers commonly metastasize to secondary locations like the brain, liver or bone, making them difficult to treat,” said Jamie Friedman, a doctoral candidate who performed the research in the laboratory of Piyali Dasgupta, PhD, at Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University.
Friedman will present the research at the American Society for Investigative Pathology annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting to be held April 6-9 in Orlando, Fla.
In this research scientists examined the effect of capsaicin on three lines of cultured human non-small cell lung cancer cells. They found that capsaicin inhibits the invasion of cancer cells, the initial phase in the metastatic process. The study also shows that the compound resulted in smaller areas of metastatic cancer cells in the lungs when compared to mice not receiving same treatment.
“Our study suggests that the natural compound capsaicin from chili peppers could represent a novel therapy to combat metastasis in lung cancer patients” added Jamie Friedman.
Further study revealed that capsaicin inhibits the activation of protein Src resulting suppression of the lung cancer metastasis. This protein also known as proto-oncogene tyrosine-protein kinase plays key role in the signaling that controls various cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, motility and adhesion.
“We hope that one day capsaicin can be used in combination with other chemotherapeutics to treat a variety of lung cancers,” said Friedman. “However, using capsaicin clinically will require overcoming its unpleasant side effects, which include gastrointestinal irritation, stomach cramps and a burning sensation.”
The researchers are now trying to identify non-pungent capsaicin analogs with the anti-tumor activity of capsaicin. They are also trying to identify natural non-pungent capsaicin-like compounds with anti-cancer activity. (Source: 2019 Experimental Biology meeting)