According to studies published in the March 15 issue of Cancer Research, capsaicin, an element common to hot peppers are found to be cure fighter against prostrate cancer cells.

apoptosis-diagramA group of researchers from the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in collaboration with colleagues from UCLA conducted a study regarding the effect and benefits of capsaicin, and found out that capsaicin causes human prostrate cancer cells to undergo apoptosis, a programmed cell death. The experiments were tested on mice and they concluded that capsaicin induced approximately 80 percent of prostrate cancer cells growing in mice. The process follow the molecular pathways of apoptosis. The tumors treated with capsaicin were about one fifth the size of tumors in non-treated mice.

“Capsaicin had a profound anti-proliferative effect on human prostate cancer cells in culture,” said Sören Lehmann, M.D., Ph.D.

A visiting scientist at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the UCLA School of Medicine. “It also dramatically slowed the development of prostate tumors formed by those human cell lines grown in mouse models.”

img_2336An amount of 400 milligrams of dose of pepper extract were tested on the mice, Lehmann estimated. Roughly equivalent to between three and eight fresh habañera peppers,native to Yucatan, has the highest rated capsaicin content. Approximately it contains 300,000 Scoville units.  The more popular Jalapeño variety from Oaxaca, Mexico, and the southwest United States, contains 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units.

The researchers found out that capsaicin inhibited the activity of NF-kappa Beta, a molecular mechanism that participates in the pathways leading to apoptosis in many cell types. They defined apoptosis, as a normal cellular event in many tissues that maintains a balance between newer replacement cells and aged or worn cells. In common ground, cancer cells seek to be immortal and often dodge apoptosis by mutating or deregulating the genes that participate in programmed cell death.

“When we noticed that capsaicin affected NF-kappa Beta, that was an indication that we might expect some of the apoptotic proteins to be affected,” said the study’s senior author, Phillip Koeffler, M.D., director of Hematology and Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and professor at UCLA.

They observed that the extract affects the growth of prostrate cancer cells by regulation of androgen receptors. These receptors are the streroid activated proteins that control expression of specific growth relating genes. Those cells whose growth is dependent on testosterone, the predominant male sex steroid, capsaicin lower cell proliferation in a manner of dose-dependent. Higher concentrations of capsaicin caused more prostate cancer cells to freeze in a non-proliferative state, called G0/G1.

Prostate cancer cells that are androgen independent reacted to capsaicin in a similar manner. Through out the experiments they suggested  despite that capsaicin lower the amount of androgen receptor that the cells produced, it did interfere with the normal flow of adrogen receptor into the nucleus of the cancer cells where the steroid receptor acts to regulate androgen target genes such as prostate specific antigen (PSA). But it interfered with the action of androgen receptors even in cells that were developed to produce excess numbers of androgen receptors.

Another leaf of benefit they found out, is that the said hot pepper component also reduced cancer cell production of PSA, a protein that often is produced in high quantities by prostate tumors and can signal the presence of prostate cancer in men. PSA content in the blood of men is used as a diagnostic prostate cancer screening measure. It is regulated by androgens, and capsaicin limited androgen-induced increases of PSA.

Men are much prone to prostrate cancer and more men in the United States dvelop prostrate cancer that any other type of malignancy. In fact, according to statistics more than 232,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the U.S., and more than 680,000 develop the disease worldwide every year. Thus,  30,000 men die from prostate cancer in the U.S. each year, which is approximately 13 percent of all new cases. In the world’s perspective, there are 221,000 deaths – approximately 31 per cent – among men with prostate cancer.

Lehmann conducted the studies in Koeffler’s laboratory in collaboration with UCLA cancer researchers Akio Mori, James O’Kelly, Takishi Kumagai, Julian Desmond, Milena Pervan, and William McBride. Mosahiro Kizaki, a former post-doctoral fellow in Koeffler’s laboratory who initiated the capsaicin studies, is currently at the Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.

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