Health In Focus
  • Capsaicin, the main constituent of hot chili peppers is a chemo-preventive agent.
  • Breast cancer cells were found to die in large numbers after the treatment with capsaicin.
  • The cancer cells that survived the treatment were not able to divide.

An active ingredient present in chili known as capsaicin can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, says a new study.

A research team led by the Bochum-based scent researcher Prof Dr habil Hanns Hatt and Dr Lea Weber conducted experiments in cultivated tumor cells.
Capsaicin in Hot Chili Peppers Inhibits Growth of Breast Cancer Cells

The triple-negative type of breast cancer is the aggressive type. The only treatment for this type of breast cancer is chemotherapy. The team conducted experiments with SUM149PT cell culture to study the aggressive type of breast cancer.

TRPV1 Receptor

The research team detected a number of typical olfactory receptors in the cultivated cells. A receptor found in the fifth cranial nerve (trigeminal nerve) occurred very frequently. The receptor belongs to the Transient Receptor Potential Channels and is named TRPV1.

The receptor is activated by capsaicin as well as by helional - a scent of fresh sea breeze. Capsaicin and helional, which are naturally produced in the body, also activate the TRPV1 receptor.

The research team in collaboration with Dr Gabriele Bonatz from the Augusta clinics in Bochum (Brustzentrum) analyzed nine different samples from patients who have breast cancer and confirmed that TRPV1 is found in tumor cells.

Activation of TRPV1 Receptor with Capsaicin

The TRPV1 receptor was activated in the cell culture with capsaicin or helional by adding substances for a period of several hours or days. The researchers found that the cancer cells were dividing more slowly and the treatment caused tumor cells to die. The cancerous cells that survived were not able to move quickly. The findings suggest that the ability of the cancer cells to form metastases in the body was impeded.

"If we could switch on the TRPV1 receptor with specific drugs, this might constitute a new treatment approach for this type of cancer," says Hanns Hatt.

"An intake via food or inhalation is insufficient for this purpose," he added.

Previously conducted studies had demonstrated the effect of a chemical called arvanil with a chemical make-up similar to that of the spicy molecule capsaicin. In mouse models, the chemical arvanil was effective against brain tumors. However, it had side effects. Thus the substance was not approved for humans.

Role of Capsaicin in Cancer Prevention

Capsaicin (trans-8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide), found in hot chili peppers has been used as a common food additive. This active ingredient is used to treat inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis and cluster headaches.

Several in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that capsaicin can suppress various types of cancers such as pancreatic, bladder, skin, prostate, lung, breast, colon, brain, hepatic, and stomach cancers.

Capsaicin can act as a chemopreventive agent by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increasing apoptosis through multiple signaling pathways. This spicy molecule has the ability to inhibit events associated with the initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer.

Breast Cancer Facts
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women
  • One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the US
  • For every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer
  • About 246,660 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2016
  • Nearly 1,400 women will die from breast cancer each day
References :
  1. Spicy molecule inhibits growth of breast cancer cells - (
  2. Role of Capsaicin in Cancer Prevention - (
Source: Medindia

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