Researchers presenting at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference concluded that capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their heat, drive the death of lung cancer cells and slows tumor growth in mice. Researchers said “Our studies have found that by giving the mice capsaicin in their food every day we are able to suppress lung tumors in mice models.” They further said “We knew other lab studies had found capsaicin has anti-cancer activity but there was nothing on small cell lung cancer. “ Finding that capsaicin degrades at a slower pace in lungs compared to other organs the researcher said “This is good news because that means that there is more intact capsaicin in the lung, which is available to stop the growth of tumours.”
Researchers used mice with impaired immune systems and induced tumor growth with human small cell lung cancer cells. Half of the mice were given capsaicin daily for 6 weeks and this group showed decreased tumor growth when compared to the mice eating standard food without the capsaicin. Further research showed capsaicin caused the cancer cells to self-destruct without affecting the normal cells. The amount of capsaicin the mice consumed was relatively mild. More research is ongoing.