Washington: Now, there is a reason to start liking the heat of chillies. A new study has suggested that the compound responsible for chilli peppers' heat could help slow the spread of lung cancer.
The research was presented at the American Society for Investigative Pathology annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. Most cancer-related deaths occur when cancer spreads to distant sites, a process called metastasis.
"Lung cancer and other cancers commonly metastasise to secondary locations like the brain, liver or bone, making them difficult to treat. Our study suggests that the natural compound capsaicin from chilli peppers could represent a novel therapy to combat metastasis in lung cancer patients," said Jamie Friedman.
In experiments involving three lines of cultured human non-small cell lung cancer cells, the researchers observed that capsaicin inhibited invasion, the first step of the metastatic process.
They also found that mice with metastatic cancer that consumed capsaicin showed smaller areas of metastatic cancer cells in the lung compared to mice not receiving the treatment.
Additional experiments revealed that capsaicin suppresses lung cancer metastasis by inhibiting the activation of the protein Src. This protein plays a role in the signalling that controls 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,” added Friedman.
The researchers are working to identify capsaicin analogues that will be non-pungent while retaining the anti-tumour activity of capsaicin. They are also trying to identify natural non-pungent capsaicin-like compounds with anti-cancer activity.