Promising (and rare) treatment kills cancer stem cells
March 23rd, 2016 by Holly Cornish
You wouldn’t normally think of my state of Virginia as the breeding grounds for a rare and forgotten fruit—a tropical fruit, no less. But for a few weeks a year, in the thick of our beautiful woods, you’ll find this tasty treat growing high among the glossy leaves of the pawpaw tree. And within those trees are reliable, proven anti-cancer compounds.
Pawpaw used to be more common. It’s believed the American Indian helped propagate the trees across the east coast and as far as Kansas and Texas. Thomas Jefferson had it growing in his backyard.
Lewis and Clark relied on pawpaws when the rest of their provisions ran low during their famous 1806 expedition. It’s the largest native edible fruit in North America.
From my childhood, I remember a song called “Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch.”
But nobody I knew ate the stuff. . .
Cancer-Killing “Smart Bomb” That Can
There is a cancer-killing nutrient in your kitchen, right now, that acts like a “smart
It’s called sulforaphane, one of the main phytonutrients in a specific type of food.
Researchers are hailing it as a breakthrough that offers real hope for preventing and
Sulforaphane can selectively target and kill cancer cells and leaves healthy cells alone.
The findings are breakthrough for the potential use of sulforaphane in cancer
But this is just the tip of the iceberg…
I’m Dr. Victor Marchione and I’m revealing this and 16 other amazing “healing foods” in my newest report that you can see here.
Apparently we were missing something
Along with its sweet-tasting fruit, the pawpaw species Asimina triloba has powerful bioactive compounds called annonaceous acetogenins. These compounds have been proven to fight insects, parasites, and most importantly, cancer cells.
But here’s a surprise: The pawpaw’s cancer-fighting power is not found in the fruit, but in the twig – the source of the plant’s most potent acetogenins.
In the early 1990’s, a Purdue University researcher named Jerry McLaughlin discovered acetogenin compounds in the bark of the pawpaw tree. Those compounds fight certain drug-resistant cancers. Through a series of experiments, the acetogenins were found to be competent in killing off tumors that had previously resisted other anti-cancer agents.
Acetogenins even prefer cancer stem cells (the other name for multidrug-resistant cancer cells or MDRs). The pawpapw compounds don’t appear to have an effect on healthy cells. Researchers believe this is because cancer cells, and tumor cells in particular, are more metabolically active than healthy cells.
You may be aware that ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is basically the “fuel” for cancer cells. By prompting the production of DNA and RNA, ATP helps cancer cells multiply.
It makes sense, then, to eliminate ATP wherever cancer is found. And that’s exactly what acetogenins do. As fatty acid derivatives, they kill cancer by cutting off its fuel source. By blocking the production of ATP, acetogenins from pawpaw cause cancer cells to starve and die.
In the competition for nutrients, tumor cells beat out healthy cells, but this works to their disadvantage when the available food happens to be fatal pawpaw acetogenins. Cancer cells snap them up before other cells can claim them.
Pawpaw extract is one of only a few known treatments for fighting MDR or stem cells. (We wrote about another one, PNC proteins, in our last issue.) Another plant, called the graviola, has a similar function, but the pawpaw is more potent, with approximately 50 acetogenins, compared to graviola’s 30 acetogenins.
Here’s what happens to a tumor on pawpaw
When pawpaw extract is taken by someone who has cancer, it travels through the bloodstream to the cancerous tissue, where the operative compounds are absorbed into the cancer cells. Once there, they connect with the cells’ mitochondria – often called the cell’s “batteries” or “energy factories.”
Mitochondria produce the energy a cancer cell needs to grow and divide—that’s where the ATP comes from. ATP molecules are like little packages of energy that cells use to get their work done.
When a cancer cell is multi-drug-resistant or MDR –i.e. highly resistant to chemotherapy—it’s usually because it has a pump within its membrane that pushes those drugs out of the cell if it’s ever infiltrated.
But this pump requires ATP energy. So when pawpaw blocks the production of ATP, the drugs stay in the cancer cells for longer—they don’t get pumped out. This is why pawpaw is a good adjunct therapy for anybody taking chemotherapy or any other form of cancer-killing treatment. Blocking the production of ATP basically starves the cancer cell and prompts cell death.
ATP is also necessary for the production of the specialized blood vessels that cancer cells generate to feed themselves (the process called angiogenesis). But again, without ATP, the cancer cell’s blood supply gets cut off. This contributes to more cell death and tumor shrinkage
Pawpaw, coming to a market near you
Despite promising beginnings with the likes of Jefferson and Lewis and Clark, the little pawpaw fruit is only recently being tested as a commercial item. For a while, sales were limited to farmer’s markets frequented by a pawpaw enthusiast and plant scientist named Neal Peterson. Mr. Peterson grows six varieties of pawpaw in the West Virginia area.
In an interview with NPR, he said the pawpaw is as good as a peach or a pear. That’s part of the reason he spent 30 years breeding pawpaws, working to increase the amount of flesh per fruit.
The lag in coming to market is almost shocking, considering the sweet flavor and health properties of this novel fruit. Besides being delicious and unique, pawpaws are nutrient-dense.
Ohio University food scientist Rob Brannan published a study that found the antioxidant count of the pawpaw to be exceptionally high—about the same as a cranberry or a cherry. It’s loaded with proteins, beneficial fats, and complex carbohydrates.
And if you’re interested in tasting the pawpaw fruit, I have good news. Fresh, raw pawpaws are becoming more available, however slowly. Pawpaws made it to the Whole Foods chain in 2013 and have been sighted in more and more grocery stores ever since.
In 2015, Neal Peterson launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make pawpaw fruit more widely available. He collected $22,357 and plans to popularize pawpaws in Europe and Japan.
But, while the fruit is healthy, it’s the extract of the pawpaw’s wood that has been therapeutically effective against cancer. Currently, several companies offer pawpaw twig extract as an herbal supplement. But as always, I caution you to consult a medical practitioner before adopting it into your cancer treatment regimen.
It’s not a magic bullet; if you decided to use pawpaw it should be just one of a range of a treatments in your protocol. And it’s not universally effective – it helped out roughly half of the people who used it in conjunction with another treatment.
I wish I could tell you of a practitioner who includes pawpaw among his treatments and has some experience with it, but we haven’t come across one, in more than ten years of interviewing dozens of cancer doctors.
This is a case where a very promising discovery has largely been ignored, and more study is needed. Meanwhile, the fruit does sound like a treat, and I plan to hunt some up and try it this summer.