WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Broccoli and red chili peppers may help fight cancer by
slowing the growth of cancerous tumor cells, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.
They may be especially helpful in hard-to-treat cancers such as pancreatic
and ovarian cancer, the team at the University of Pittsburgh said.
"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," said Sanjay Srivastava,
who led the study.
"We discovered that red chili pepper and broccoli appear to be effective
inhibitors of the cancer process."
Speaking to a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Anaheim,
California, Srivastava said he and colleagues tested capsaicin, which makes
peppers hot, against pancreatic cancer cells in a lab dish.
The compound caused the cancer cells to self-destruct in a process called apoptosis,
while not 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," Srivastava said.
His team also examined phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a constituent of cruciferous
vegetables such as broccoli, on ovarian cancer cells.
PEITC interfered with a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor, which
is involved in the growth of ovarian and other cancerous tumors.
The studies may help explain why people who eat large amounts of fruits and
vegetables have a lower risk of cancer, Srivastava said.
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