Besides spicing up your food, chilli, it seems, also has some medicinal value. New research suggests the compound responsible for chilli's heat could help slow the spread of lung cancer, 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," said one of the study authors Jamie Friedman from Marshall University in the US.
"Our study suggests the natural compound capsaicin from chilli peppers could represent a novel therapy to combat metastasis in lung cancer patients," said Friedman, a doctoral candidate who performed the research in the laboratory of Piyali Dasgupta at Marshall University Joan C Edwards School of Medicine.
In experiments involving three lines of cultured human non-small cell lung cancer cells, researchers observed capsaicin inhibited invasion, the first step of the metastatic process.
They also found mice with metastatic cancer that consumed capsaicin showed smaller areas of metastatic cancer cells in the lung compared with mice not receiving the treatment.
The findings were presented during the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting being held from 6-9 April in Orlando, Florida.
Additional experiments revealed capsaicin suppresses lung cancer metastasis by inhibiting activation of the protein Src. This protein plays a role in the signalling that controls cellular processes like proliferation, differentiation, motility and adhesion.
"We hope one day capsaicin can be used in combination with other chemotherapeutics to treat a variety of lung cancers," said Friedman.