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J Agric Food Chem. 2015 May 6;63(17):4297-304. doi: 10.1021/jf506098s. Epub 2015 Apr 22.

Synergistic anticancer activity of capsaicin and 3,3'-diindolylmethane in human colorectal cancer.

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Department of Nutrition and Food Science, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, United States.


Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. A promising area of cancer research is focused on chemoprevention by nutritional compounds. Epidemiological studies have shown a strong negative correlation between fruit, vegetable, and spice intake and rates of cancer. Although individual active compounds have demonstrated significant anticancer activity, an emerging area of research is focusing on the combination of multiple dietary compounds that act synergistically on cancer to exert greater effects. The current study evaluated the potential synergistic effects of capsaicin, an active compound from red chili peppers, in combination with 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM), from cruciferous vegetables. A synergistic induction of apoptosis and inhibition of cell proliferation was observed in human colorectal cancer cells treated with the combination of capsaicin and DIM. It was also observed that these two compounds activated transcriptional activity of NF-κB and p53 synergistically. Combination treatment stabilized nuclear p53 and up- or down-regulated expression of several target genes that are downstream of NF-κB and p53. The present study suggests capsaicin and DIM work synergistically to inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in colorectal cancer through modulating transcriptional activity of NF-κB, p53, and target genes associated with apoptosis.


3,3′-diindolylmethane; apoptosis; capsaicin; colorectal cancer

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