Chilies could be key to anti-cancer drug design

Researcher demonstrates importance of natural sources in anti-cancer research at Bath Chili Festival

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Recent laboratory research has shown that capsaicin, a molecule found in chili and responsible for providing their spicy flavor, may have anti-cancer properties with potential for drug development. Dr Amit Nathubhai from the University of Bath (UK) used this fact to promote his research, funded by Worldwide Cancer Research (Fife, UK), at the Bath Chili Festival.

Nathubhai used capsaicin and other molecules from natural sources to demonstrate methods being used to design and prepare molecules that have potential as novel therapies. “I wanted to excite the public and show them how we design and make vital molecules using examples from nature. Computer visuals, molecular modelling kits, science equipment and toys were used to engage the public and highlight the processes behind medicinal chemistry,” Nathubhai explained.

The members of the public who watched the presentation were able to appreciate, many for the first time, the methods used in medicinal chemistry research. They were keen to learn about the work done by Worldwide Cancer Research, and showed interest in the equipment used in organic chemistry.

Nathubhai added, “I hope that I managed to educate the general public, inspire future generations towards science and increase the awareness of Worldwide Cancer Research.” Nathubhai is currently working in the lab of Mike Threadgill to design novel anti-cancer drugs (for our recent Careers Month interview on with Mike, follow this link).

“I’ve been researching new cancer drug treatments for over twenty years and Worldwide Cancer Research has funded a lot of this work,” Threadgill commented. “Just recently, we have had two projects which are showing promise; one in stopping cancer cells dividing, the other in prostate cancer. Support from Worldwide Cancer Research has been key in both discoveries.”

Both Nathubhai and Threadgill have previously gone beyond the call of duty by participating in a 200ft charity abseil from Avon Gorge this summer, to raise money for Worldwide Cancer Research.

Stella Bennett


Can chillis beat cancer?

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Stella Bennett

Contributor, Future Science Group

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