Navigate Up

UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Manager
Telephone: 412-623-4701 or 412-586-9773

Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

Spice It Up Or Just Veg Out, Either Way You May Be Helping To Defend Against Cancer

Dietary Agents in Red Chili Pepper and Vegetables Linked to Cancer Prevention

PITTSBURGH, April 19, 2005 — Two new studies suggest that vegetables such as broccoli and spices like red chili pepper, may provide a cancer-fighting benefit by slowing or preventing the growth of cancerous tumor cells. The findings, being presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held April 16 to 20 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., looked at the effect of these dietary agents on cancers that have extremely poor prognoses despite advances in surgery and other therapies.

“In our studies, we decided to look at two particular cancers – ovarian and pancreatic – with low survival rates, to ascertain the contribution of diet and nutrition to the development of these cancers. We discovered that red chili pepper and broccoli appear to be effective inhibitors of the cancer process,” said Sanjay K. Srivastava, Ph.D., lead investigator and assistant professor, department of pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “The contribution of diet and nutrition to cancer risk, prevention and treatment has been a major focus of research in recent years because certain nutrients in vegetables and dietary agents appear to protect the body against diseases such as cancer.”

The first study, abstract number 2469, looked at the chemotherapeutic potential of capsaicin, the “hot” ingredient in red chili pepper that is often associated with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activities, and found that it exhibited anticancer activity against pancreatic cancer cells. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers with an extremely poor prognosis. Dr. Srivastava and colleagues treated human pancreatic cells with capsaicin and found that it disrupted the mitochondrial function resulting in the release of cytochrome c, which induced apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in the cancerous cells without affecting normal pancreatic cells.

“Our results demonstrate that capsaicin is a potent anticancer agent, induces apoptosis in cancer cells and produces no significant damage to normal pancreatic cells, indicating its potential use as a novel chemotherapeutic agent for pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Srivastava.

In the second study, abstract number 5194, Dr. Srivastava and colleagues examined the therapeutic benefits of phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a constituent of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, on ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer, one of the leading causes of gynecologic cancer-related deaths among women in the United States, is often detected at an advanced stage, making it difficult to treat successfully. In the study, ovarian cancer cells were exposed to PEITC for 24 hours, which resulted in significant inhibition of the protein expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR plays a crucial role in the growth of ovarian cancer cells. PEITC treatment also inhibited the activation of Akt, which is responsible for protecting cancer cells against apoptosis. The concentrations of PEITC used in the study were at levels that may be achieved through dietary intake.

These studies were supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute. Co-investigators include Sivakumar Loganathan, Ph.D., and Ian Humphreys, both with the department of pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com