HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Researchers at the Marshall University (MU) Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine put out the first published in-depth description of the anti-cancer activity of capsaicin, a nutritional agent naturally found in chili peppers.

Recently published in Pharmacology & Therapeutics, the article describes how sustained-release capsaicin drugs can suppress cancer growth.

According to researchers, Capsaicin displayed robust growth-inhibitory activity in various human cancers. However, clinical applications of capsaicin as a successful anti-cancer agent were hindered by three factors: poor solubility, low bioavailability and spicy flavor.

“Oral use of capsaicin is associated with unfavorable side effects such as stomach cramps, nausea, a burning sensation in the gut and gastrointestinal irritation,” said Monica Valentovic, Ph.D., MU Professor of Biomedical Sciences and senior author on the publication. “A strategy to overcome these drawbacks is the development of different delivery systems, such as encapsulating capsaicin in long-acting sustained release drug delivery systems could allow for more consistent capsaicin levels that could be more efficient as anti-cancer agents.”

The research team was led by Valentovic along with Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D., also a corresponding author on the publication.

In addition to Dasgupta and Valentovic, clinical faculty Maria T. Tirona, M.D., Joshua Hess, M.D., and Paul Finch, M.D., contributed to the publication as well as co-authors Stephen Richbart, Justin Merritt, Ashley Cox, Emily Moles and Katie Brown.