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Spice Up Your Life: Active Ingredient in Chili or Peppers Could Kill Breast Cancer Cells

Dec 23, 2016 05:17 AM EST

A new study revealed that the active ingredient of pungent substances such as chili and peppers could inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and make the tumor cells die in larger number.

The study, published in the journal Breast Cancer-Targets and Therapy, showed that the spicy molecule capsaicin could activate a certain olfactory receptor, dubbed as TPRV1, in breast cancer cells, making the cancer cells divide more slowly and die in larger numbers.

"If we could switch on the TRPV1 receptor with specific drugs, this might constitute a new treatment approach for this type of cancer," said Dr. Hanns Hatt, a scent researcher at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and co-lead author of the study, in a press release.

For the study, the researchers experimented with the SUM149PT cell culture, a model system for a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer. The only available treatment for this type of cancer is chemotherapy.

The researchers observed that TRPV1 receptor, which belongs to the so-called Transient Receptor Potential Channel, were commonly found in the in the fifth cranial nerve. The existence of TRPV1 receptor in tumor cells were confirmed by nine different samples from patients suffering from breast cancer.

The TRPV1 receptor in the cell culture were activated by adding the spicy molecule capsaicin to the culture for a period of several hours or days. The researchers observed that the activation of the TRPV1 receptor resulted to slower division of cancer cells. Additionally, the capsaicin treatment caused the tumor cells to die in larger number. Tumor cells that survived the capsaicin treatment were no longer able to move as quickly as before. Due to this, the ability of the cancer cells to form metastases in the body was impeded.

In 2013, about 230,815 women and 2,109 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer. This include 40,860 women and 464 men who died from breast cancer.

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