What is Capsaicin?

Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin is a chili pepper extract with analgesic properties. Capsaicin is a neuropeptide releasing agent selective for primary sensory peripheral neurons. Used topically, capsaicin aids in controlling peripheral nerve pain. This agent has been used experimentally to manipulate substance P and other tachykinins.

Cancer  is  a  major  cause  of  morbidity  and  mortality  all  over  the  world  and  a  promising  area  of cancer research is concentrated on chemoprevention by nutritional compounds. Capsaicin, traditionally used  as  a food additive and an  analgesic,  is one of the main pungent ingredients in chili peppers. Recent studies have shown that capsaicin has anti-cancer effects in various types of cancer model. The purpose of this review is to outline the anticarcinogenic effect of capsaicin and its mechanism.

Anticarcinogenic Effects

  Prostatic Cancer

Prostate cancer is a common malignancy in male. As one of the natural product, capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers, has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of prostate cancer in vitro and in vivo . Natalieet et al. indicated that capsaicin inhibit of NFκB signaling in the prostatic cancer by the role a radio-sensitzing agent. Other study revealed that capsaicin promotes the secretion of TNF-α-stimulated IL-6 in PC-3 cells and induces the expression of IL-6 through TRPV1, ERK, PKC-a, PI3K/Akt activation.Interestingly, the latest study demonstrated that capsaicin negatively regulates the activity of androgen receptor at the mRNA and protein levels by restoring miR-449a profiling. Additionally, it may increase the sensitivity of prostate cancer through increasing expression of miR-449a in capsaicin treatment. As a consequence, capsaicin may possibly developed as a drug for the treatment of prostate cancer .

 Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a key public health issues in western countries and the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.A number of case-control and cohort studies have demonstrated an inverse rela- tionship between the consumption of vegetables and colorectal cancer. Among common vegetables selected on the basis of consumption per capita data in the United States, red chili pepper showed very high an- ti-proliferative and anti-oxidant activity . Several studies were also proven that capsaicin might inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.

The study by Lee et al. elucidated that capsaicin might prevent the growth of human colorectal cancer cells by suppressing β-catenin/TCF-dependent pathways via multiple mechanisms, including suppression of β-catenin transcription, activation of proteosomal degradation of β-catenin, and disruption of β-catenin/TCF-4 interactions.In addition, Yang et al. demonstrated that therapy with high-concentration of capsaicin (≥200 µM for SW480 and CT-26 cell lines; ≥25 µM for HCT116 cell line) inhibited colorectal cancer cell proliferation in a

The structure of capsaicin. 

dose-dependent manner.The current study evaluated the potential synergistic effects of capsaicin, which suggested that capsaicin and DIM work synergistically to inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in colo- rectal cancer through modulating transcriptional activity of NF-κB, p53, and target genes associated with apop- tosis.

 Lung Cancer

Lung cancer, the second most frequent cancer, ranks first as a cause of mortality worldwide among the men and women. It becomes a serious health problem in most countries and its occurrence rate is prolifically increasing.Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Tobacco smoke contains over 60 known carcino- gens. Among the carcinogens, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as benzo(a)pyrene [B(a)P], play a significant role in lung carcinogenesis. In some research, capsaicin has been reported to induce tumor cells apoptosis and restrict benzo(a)pyrene induced lung tumorigenesis in Swiss albino mice.

There are two major types: non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common, and small cell lung cancer, which spreads more quickly.

Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for 80% of all lung cancers. Its treatment is intrinsically resistant to chemotherapy or irradiation therapy. Previous research has shown that several pro-angiogenic factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are highly expressed in the tumor microenvironment and strongly induce tumor angiogenesis which is essential for the growth and metastasis of non-small cell lung cancer. Results proposed by Chakraborty et al. show that capsaicin induces activation of p53-SMAR1 auto-regulatory loop and down-regulates VEGF in non-small cell lung cancer to restrain angiogenesis, and this may offer the panorama of exclusively targeting pro-angiogenic factors and pathways to achieve more efficient and cogent lung cancer therapy.

Small cell lung cancer, represents 13% of all lung cancer cases, is a neuroendocrine tumor characterized by early dissemination and rapid metastasis. It is the most aggressive form of lung cancer, with an overall 5-year survival time of less than 5%.The identification of dietary compounds that can decrease the growth of small cell lung cancer could foster the hope of novel therapies for this disease. Recent report from Lau’s group suggested that capsaicin induces apoptosis of human small cell lung cancer cells through the TRPV6 and downstream calpain pathway, which revealed TRPV6 might be a useful molecular target for the treatment of human small cell lung cancer.

Gastric Cancer

Gastric cancer is a malignancy that occurs from the lining of the stomach. Though there has been a remarkable decrease in the number of people diagnosed with gastric cancer in the past decades worldwide, it is the fourth most common cause of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the world, causing about 900,000 deaths worldwide per year. Many studies have suggests that capsaicin can induce cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis or inhibit proliferation in a variety of cancer cells and it has a potential to chemopreventive activities.Possible chemosensitizing effect of capsaicin was proved by Ogunc’s group, when capsaicin and 5-FU are combined, the inhibitory effect was significantly higher than that of 5-FU when used individually. SEON et al. demonstrated that capsaicin induced apoptosis in human gastric cancer cells and may serve as an anti-tumorigenic agent in human gastric cancer. Likewise, other studies showed that capsaicin displays apoptotic activity of cisplatin-resistant gastric cancer cells by causing degradation of cisplatin-inducible Auro- ra-A protein.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadliest of all the solid malignancies, is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States and the eighth-leading cause of cancer related mortalily in China. Ow- ing to early symptoms are not easily diagnosed and its strongly aggressive nature, only 10% – 20% of pancreatic cancers can be resected through surgery. For unresectable pancreatic cancers, administration of gemcitabine chemotherapy is considered as the current standard treatment. However, gemcitabine treatment results in an objective cancer response rate of less than 20% due to the inherent resistance to chemotherapeutic agents and its toxicity. Therefore, efforts have been directed to find novel drugs for the sake of improving the survival rate and the prognosis of this potentially fatal disease.

Capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers, has been proven to induce apoptosis in various tumors so as to enhance the therapeutic effects of chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer. Several reports indicate that capsaicin exerts its inhibitory effect on proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells via ERS-mediated apoptotic pathway or the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt pathway. Other studies elucidated that capsaicin causes ROS generation through mitochondria and depleted intracellular antioxidants resulting in mitochondrial damage and apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells, while normal pancreatic epithelial cells were resistant to the effects of capsaicin. Oppositely, results of Skrzypski et al. suggest that capsaicin induces cytotoxicity by disturbing mitochondrial potential, and inhibits ATP synthesis in NET cells. Stimulation of ROS generation by capsaicin appears to be a secondary effect, not related to capsaicin-induced cytotoxicity.@cancerqueries

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