Chili pepper compound can stop breast cancer, study finds

240

Research has identified different subtypes of breast cancer that respond to varying treatment types. Of these, the so-called triple-negative breast cancer is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. However, new research may have uncovered a molecule that slows down this kind of cancer.
Researchers say a compound in chili peppers could help slow a subtype of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in women around the world, with almost 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012.
In the United States, breast cancer is also the most common form of cancer in women, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Genetic research has enabled scientists to classify breast cancer into subtypes, which respond differently to various kinds of treatment. These subtypes are categorized according to the presence or absence of three receptors that are known to promote breast cancer: estrogen, progesterone, and the epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).
Breast cancers that test positively for HER2 typically respond well to treatment and even to some specific drugs. However, there are types of cancer that test negatively for HER2, as well as for estrogen and progesterone – this is called triple-negative breast cancer.
As some studies have shown, triple-negative cancer is more difficult to treat, with chemotherapy being the only option.
New research, from the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, tested the effects of a spicy molecule on cultivated tumor cells of this particularly aggressive cancer type.
Researchers were led by Dr. Hanns Hatt and Dr. Lea Weber, and they collaborated with several institutions in Germany. These included the Augusta clinics in Bochum, the hospital Herz-Jesu-Krankenhaus in Dernbach, and the Centre of Genomics in Cologne.
The researchers tested the effect of an active ingredient commonly found in chili or pepper – called capsaicin – on SUM149PT cell culture, which is a model for triple-negative breast cancer.
The scientists were motivated by existing research, which suggests that several transient receptor potential (TRP) channels influence cancer cell growth. As the authors explain, TRP channels are membranous ion channels that conduct calcium and sodium ions, and which can be influenced by several stimuli including temperature or pH changes.