Chilli peppers to become new metastatic cancer therapy?
Many cancer patients don’t realise until it’s too late. But for those whose doctors diagnose it early, there’s always a risk of it spreading. If it gets out of control, cancer will almost certainly kill its victims. To date, cancer has killed more than enough people. According to WHO, cancer killed almost 10 million worldwide in 2018! That’s why cancer treatment research is always red hot. In this article, we’ll be looking at a possible metastatic cancer therapy. This form of cancer treatment actually comes from a most unlikely source. Chilli peppers. Yes, you weren’t hallucinating; you read that right. We could actually use chilli peppers to stop the spread of cancer cells.
To start with, we’ll briefly discuss the spread of cancer and why it’s so deadly. After that, you’ll learn about the ‘magic’ stuff in chilli peppers. Then, in the end, we’ll consider the future prospects of this research. Let’s get to it!!
Why cancer is so dangerous
In a healthy person, body cells divide in an orderly manner. But sometimes, certain cells choose not to do this. Instead, they divide in an uncontrolled fashion to form a tumour. Now, not all tumours are a problem. It’s only dangerous when it has the ability to grow into tissues surrounding it. In other words, it can spread locally. When abnormal cells are dividing and growing out of control, it’s known as cancer. Sometimes, cancerous cells can spread from their site of origin to a completely different part of the body. The process by which cancer spreads is called metastasis. This ability to spread is what makes cancer so deadly. Therefore, any type of metastatic cancer therapy could potentially save lives.
There are two main reasons why cancer cells spread. Firstly, healthy cells have certain chemicals which bind them within their local area. In contrast, cancerous cells don’t have these at all. Therefore, they’re free to break away from the main tumour. They then travel to other regions in the body via the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Now, the second reason is faulty cell signalling. Normal, healthy cells all communicate with one another. It’s very a normal process that’s important for survival. This signalling also helps to create boundaries between various cells. Without these processes taking place, cells can end up growing in abnormal places. Cancer cells simply ignore these signals and refuse to respond. As a result, they end up travelling towards and penetrating foreign tissue. Once they’ve implanted themselves there, they just form a new tumour.
Chilli peppers to the rescue
Have you ever wondered what makes peppers hot ‘n’ spicy? Btw: I’m referring to chillies here, not salad bell peppers. The active chemical in chilli peppers is called capsaicin. More importantly, this is actually what gives peppers their spiciness along with other health benefits. Well, there’s now evidence that capsaicin could be turned into a metastatic cancer therapy. By the time cancer spreads to other bodily sites, it’s very, very hard to treat. In some cases, the poor victims are out of luck. That’s exactly what I was referring to in the opening sentence. Now, Capsaicin is a natural compound, not a synthetic one which is a good start. Research has shown that it can stop the spread of some types of cancer. This includes prostate cancer and melanoma.
The research looked specifically at the effects of capsaicin on adenocarcinoma of the lungs. Adenocarcinomas account for nearly half of all instances of lung cancer. Unfortunately, capsaicin does have some unpleasant side-effects. This includes stomach cramps, skin burning, intense eye irritation etc. Therefore, the team decided to compare the effects of capsaicin to two other very similar compounds. These were capsiconiate and capsiate. Would these perform as well as capsaicin without any side effects?? Well, let’s take a brief look at the outcome.
To begin with they examined the actions of capsiate on lung cancer cells. Capsiate was able to stop cancer cells travelling towards and invading other tissues. On the other hand, capsiconiate wasn’t able to do anything. They then compared rodents who had been fed on capsaicin to those who hadn’t. Rodents who had eaten capsaicin had a far lower amount of cancer cells undergoing metastasis. Capsaicin definitely has potential.
Moving things forward
Such results are definitely promising in this field of medicinal science/research. However, the challenge now is to create chemical analogues of capsaicin. These are compounds whose chemical structure is very similar. As a result, they should be able to deliver the same tumour-suppressing effect. But at the same time, they hopefully wouldn’t bring any nasty side-effects. This would then transform capsaicin into a potent lung cancer treatment. In order to increase its effectiveness, doctors could even use it along with other drugs. Look, the real goal here is quite simple and straightforward. To transform the capsaicin in chilli pepper into a metastatic cancer therapy.
After all, stopping the spread of tumour cells is pivotal to cancer research. But then, lung cancer is only one type of cancer. Therefore, it’s crucial for researchers to try and widen its functionality. In other words, use it (if possible) to treat other forms of cancer too. However, this study is still quite elementary. Therefore, they would need to conduct further tests and analysis. This is to show that it meets the minimum safety standards for medicinal drugs.
Many medicinal drugs are derived from, or based on naturally-occurring compounds. So, to be honest, this isn’t actually a surprise. It just needs to be developed and tested further. As a matter of fact, there are actually lower rates of lung cancer among certain cultures. These are typically in areas of the world where people eat a lot of spicy food. See a link? If you want, check out my earlier post on lung cancer treatment. Did you like this? Then feel free to leave your comments down below!