Slay breast cancer with sriracha? Maybe. Researchers found that capsaicin, the compound that makes food spicy, killed the cells of a particularly nasty type of breast cancer. A team of scientists at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany experimented on cultivated tumor cells of triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of cancer for which the only available treatment is chemotherapy. The findings were published in the journal Breast Cancer: Targets and Therapy. About 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple negative. The aggressive cancer is more likely to recur in patients than other types of breast cancer, according to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.
The German researchers found that specific receptors, called Transient Receptor Potential Channels (TRPV1), occurred often in the cancer cells. Capsaicin activated them. The capsaicin caused cell death in a large number of cells. It also slowed the remaining cells, which divided more slowly, significantly slowing the growth of the cancer.
This is not the first research to suggest the cancer-fighting powers of capsaicin and similar compounds. Earlier studies demonstrated that the chemical arvanil, chemically similar to capsaicin, effectively fought brain tumors in mice, according to a university release about the new study. Arvanil, however, is not approved for use in humans.