Pepper Compound Selectively Kills Breast Cancer Cells
Posted Jul 18 2011 10:20am
The transition between a normal cell and a cancer cell, whether it be a breast cancer cell or other cancer cell, requires a delicate balance between the cells' altered, faster metabolism and the cellular stress caused by the cells' changed metabolism. In order to survive and thrive, cancer cells have adapted to handle the excess cellular stress. Research studies have been exploring this delicate balance between increased metabolism and the extra stress associated with it in hopes of discovering ways to tip the balance away from cell growth towards cancer cell death.
One such recent study reported that piperlongumine, a natural compound from the Indian Long Pepper , might block the ability of breast cancer (and other cancer) cells to survive this high level of cellular stress. To test the effects of piperlongumine, cancer researchers treated cancer cells in culture and in mice. Some of the findings from this study include
Piperlongumine treatment increased the level of oxidative molecules (called reactive oxygen species) in both cancer cells and normal cells engineered to be like cancer cells and resulted in an increase in cancer cell death.
Piperlongumine had no adverse or toxic effects on normal cells.
Cancer growth in mice with transplanted tumors was suppressed by piperlongumine treatment.
In mice that spontaneously develop breast cancer, piperlongumine inhibited tumor growth and metastasis.
While a lot more research needs to be done, this study suggests that this pepper compound has the ability to tip the balance between a revved-up cell metabolism and enhanced oxidative stress toward a higher level of oxidative stress that the cancer cells could not overcome and thus could not survive. Apparently, the piperlongumine is interfering with the activity of enzymes needed to maintain the cells' oxidative stress balance. Whether this approach to preventing and/or treating cancer will apply to all forms of cancer or whether it will work in human patients remains to be determined; however, the early results for this new form of breast cancer treatment appear promising.