The spiciness of black pepper is largely a result of its piperine content. Piperine has been shown to significantly increase the bioavailability of selenium and beta-carotene, among other nutrients, and to mitigate the harmful effects of cadmium exposure. Piperine and related compounds have been shown to reduce cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and metastasis in breast cancer cells. Piperine enhances the anti-cancer effects of curcumin (the most biologically active component of turmeric).

Furthermore, piperine has been shown to enhance the bioavailability of several chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer, including Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Taxotere (docetaxel) and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). In fact, piperine has been shown to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs in cancer cells with multidrug resistance (which reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy immediately in a few patients or over time in most others). For example, piperine has been found to increase the cytotoxicity of Adriamycin in drug resistant hormone receptor positive (ER+/PR+) breast cancer cells. Now a new study has reported that piperine increases the cell-killing effects of Taxol (paclitaxel) in HER2/neu overexpressing (HER2+) breast cancer cells.

Latest research finds piperine increases effectiveness of Taxol in HER2+ cells

The study referenced at the beginning of this news story was designed to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which piperine exerts anti-cancer effects in HER2+ breast cancer cells. The authors demonstrated that piperine strongly inhibited proliferation and induced programmed cell death (apoptosis) as a result of caspase-3 activation and PARP cleavage. In addition, piperine reduced HER2 gene expression, resulting in a reduction in migration. Finally, the authors showed that pretreatment with piperine enhanced sensitization to Taxol, thereby increasing the death of HER2+ breast cancer cells. The authors conclude that piperine may have a potential role in the prevention and treatment of human HER2+ breast cancer.

Please see our articles on black pepper, Taxol and breast cancer diet for HER2+ patients and survivors for more information.