Chapter 2

Capsaicin: Potential Applications in Cancer Therapy

Jamie K. Lau, Kathleen C. Brown, Aaron M. Dom and Piyali Dasgupta


Capsaicin is an active ingredient of chili peppers. Although traditionally associated with chemopreventive and anti-carcinogenic activity, recent studies have shown that capsaicin has profound anti-neoplastic effects in several types of human cancer cells. The biological activity of capsaicin is mediated by the transient receptor potential vanilloid [TRPV] superfamily of ion channel receptors. Specifically, capsaicin is an agonist of the TRPV1 receptor. The growth-inhibitory properties of capsaicin have been found to be mediated by TRPV1-dependent and independent mechanisms. Experiments in multiple animal models have demonstrated that the anti-cancer activity of capsaicin is not associated with any discomfort or toxicity. The present review summarizes the current knowledge on the growth-inhibitory activity of capsaicin and discusses the signaling pathways underlying its anticancer effects. Future studies involving the design of capsaicin-mimetics with improved selectivity may represent novel strategies in the treatment of human cancers.

Total Pages: 15-25 (11)

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