... that an extract from the pawpaw tree has been shown to be 300 times as toxic to cancer as chemotherapy ... and 1 million times stronger than some cancer drugs?
Acetogenins, however, work differently than chemo. Instead of attacking rapidly dividing cells directly, acetogenins choke them off by blocking adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical fuel they need to survive.
In 1997, Cancer Letters and the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry published breakthrough discoveries on pawpaw, acetogenins, and cancer. Researchers have now published more than 100 scientific papers on pawpaw investigations that began in 1976 at Purdue University, one of the most highly regarded universities in the nation.
Back then, Dr. Jerry McLaughlin was a professor of pharmacognosy at Purdue's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the National Cancer Institute had just awarded him funding to scour the plant world for anticancer botanicals. For 3 decades McLaughlin searched, screening more than 3,500 plant species. His findings astonished the scientific community.
McLaughlin's team identified plant substances that were in some cases thousands of times more deadly to cancer cells than chemotherapy drugs. The substances proved safe, too. One study reported that pawpaw was 300 times as toxic against cancer as a leading chemotherapy drug -- without causing weight loss and hair loss. Nor do acetogenins appear carcinogenic. "I don't think we'll have to worry about these [acetogenins] ever causing cancer -- as some anticancer agents do," McLaughlin told reporters at Purdue.
Tumor-fighting acetogenins -- also known to be antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic -- are found in many plants. But none are as potent against cancer as those in pawpaw. For example, pawpaw's South American relative, graviola, has been widely publicized for its cancer-fighting properties. Yet, common pawpaw has repeatedly been proven to be significantly more powerful.
In all, scientists have isolated some 400 acetogenins. One known as bullatacin, found first in a Cuban native plant, showed phenomenal results. In tests by a major pharmaceutical company, bullatacin proved 1 million times stronger than the cancer drug cisplatin in inhibiting growth of human ovarian tumors transplanted into mice. McLaughlin's team isolated bullatacin in pawpaw, too. "[We don't] have to rely on Cuba to get bullatacin, the most potent acetogenin," McLaughlin said. Trilobacin, another pawpaw acetogenin, suppressed growth in cultured cells of several cancers, such as:
- small-cell lung cancer
- colon cancer
- ovarian cancer
- renal cancer
Some pharmaceutical companies have tried -- not yet successfully -- to create a synthetic, patentable version of pawpaw. Since they can't patent natural plant agents, that means they can't expect to make profits from them. This may explain the absence of clinical studies despite pawpaw's documented and formidable anticancer activity.
One informal and unpublished clinical trial in 2003 showed promise, though. In association with McLaughlin, Dr. James Forsythe of the Reno Cancer Screening and Treatment Center in Nevada led a trial of 94 terminal stage IV cancer patients who had already undergone traditional cancer treatment. In results from a selection of 10 positive case studies, pawpaw extract ...
- Reduced tumor markers
- Reduced tumor size
- Increased longevity
Acetogenins are much more plentiful in pawpaw's twigs than its fruit or leaves Acetogenin levels in twigs peak during the month of May Levels of acetogenins vary by location of the trees. Some groves produce much higher levels than others
Against these challenges, McLaughlin finally perfected and patented an extraction and standardization process. He licensed his patent for this methodology to one manufacturer, Nature's Sunshine, which now produces Cell-Reg, the only standardized pawpaw extract available to consumers.
For his achievements, McLaughlin has earned enduring recognition. In 2007, he was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for research on botanicals by the American Society of Pharmacognosy, an organization over which McLaughlin once presided. Most importantly, though, his pawpaw discovery is finally available for use by cancer patients in their fight against a dreaded disease with no known cure. What better reward could there be for a scientist who dedicated 30 years of research to battling cancer through nature?
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