Back in January, I wrote about a new type of therapy called resiniferatoxin where polymodal nociceptors were destroyed by a cousin of capsaicin. Now a new treatment involving resiniferitoxin’s cousin, capsaicin, is showing promise in killing tumor cells.
Capsaicin is what’s found in spicy foods — it’s what gives these food their burn. It’s also remarkably good at dulling pain (it’s the active ingredient in Zostrix, for example), and now it appears that it can also kill prostate cancer cells by increasing the rates of apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death; for instance skin cells undergo apoptosis to make way for newer cells. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are notorious for proliferating without ever dying, which is the definition of cancer: uncontrolled cellular proliferation.
In any event, a baseline rate of cell death of 3% was established with low concentrations of capsaicin. By increasing the dose, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center were able to increase the rates of apoptosis to as high as 75%.
He believes that capsaicin jump starts a pathway that triggers cell death. Molecular tests suggest that it achieves this by causing a cascade of events inside the cell that lead to the release of a protein complex called NF-kappa Beta, which subsequently causes the cell to self-destruct. This is crucial since cancer is characterised by the uncontrolled growth of cells.
The team also found that capsaicin suppressed the growth of human prostate cancer cells – grafted into mice with suppressed immune systems – by about 80%.
There is no indication that increased capsaicin intake decreases one’s risk of developing prostate cancer; rather, it only appears to slow its rate of growth. Nonetheless, Phillip Koeffler, head of the research team hopes to see clinical trials within the next two years to determine capsaicin’s actual effect on men with prostate cancer.
It would be interesting to see if resiniferatoxin can kill bone cancer cells via a similar pathway — while it might not save a terminal patient’s life life, it could prolong it.
[tags]prostate cancer, capsaicin, cancer, medicine[/tags]