SIU professor studies using chili peppers to help prevent hearing loss
The Southern – Illinoisan
August 21, 2014
SPRINGFIELD — A physician researcher at SIU School of Medicine has been awarded a five-year federal grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health to continue his studies of how to reduce hearing loss in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
The current research project will examine whether capsaicin, a component of hot chili peppers, can reduce hearing loss and kidney damage if given prior to or after a dose of cisplatin, an anti-cancer drug frequently used for chemotherapy.
Dr. Leonard Rybak, professor emeritus of surgery in the division of otolaryngology head and neck surgery and SIUC distinguished scholar, is the principal investigator for the project. The study is a continuation of an existing grant that has been funded for 17 years, to study the mechanisms and prevention of cisplatin ototoxicity. The grant has a total budget of $1,549,269.
Through the previous period of funding, Rybak studied several antioxidants and found that in animal models, these drugs protect against cisplatin-induced hearing loss and kidney damage. However, some experts are concerned that the antioxidants may interfere with cisplatin’s effectiveness as a cancer treatment. For that reason, Rybak’s laboratory is investigating potentially safer alternatives, such as capsaicin. Otolaryngology residents and pharmacology graduate students participated in these studies.
The study will determine the smallest doses of capsaicin possible that will prevent hearing loss yet still allow cisplatin to be effective in the treatment of tumors. The results of the research may lead to cancer treatment with fewer negative side effects, like hearing loss and kidney damage.
— SIU School of Medicine