Cancer is a leading cause of disease death the world over; it affects nearly 1 in 3 people at some stage in their life, and many in the medical and scientific community are suggesting that will increase over the next few years.
Once diagnosed, the typical options for treatment leave you incredibly ill and can disable you for months, or even years. Our Big Pharma culture deems it acceptable to bombard the human body with powerful chemotherapy, killing many cells indiscriminately, in hopes that the patient can survive this onslaught. The medical community at large considers a patient a “survivor” if they can live just five (5) additional years after this “treatment.” After that, the prognosis is grim, if at all counted. Patients are dismissed from the record books as having survived their bout with cancer, even if they have suffered debilitating illness and hardship during those years, and the Pharmaceutical companies hail it as a victory.
Is it any wonder that so many cancer patients are turning to alternative medicine to help cure them of this deadly disease?
Our world contains untold numbers of natural treatments for a variety of diseases. Every week, there are new discoveries in natural, wholesome alternatives to Big Pharma, and cancer research is no different.
However, before believing some of the wildly enticing tales of miracle cures, and secret natural remedies being oppressed by the medical community, I urge all readers to partake in their own due diligence before spending money on any number of “natural cancer treatments.” It is common advice that living an active, healthy lifestyle is probably your best weapon in the fight against cancer, but even athletes develop disease. A wholesome, clean diet is also of great advantage, but sometimes our environment hands us the cancer package anyway.
So, let’s discuss one of the natural “treatments” that are floating around the internet recently:
Soursop is the fruit of Annona muricata, a broadleaf, flowering, evergreen tree native to Mexico, Cuba, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. The flavor has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavor notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana.
The plant is grown as a commercial herb crop for its 20–30 cm (7.9–12 in) long, prickly, green fruit, which can have a mass of up to 15 lb (6.8 kg). The fruit contains significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2 – Wikipedia, “Soursop Fruit”
Graviola extracts have demonstrated anticancer properties in laboratory testing, but these extracts have not been properly studied in humans. In its article about graviola, Cancer Research UK notes:
In laboratory studies, graviola extracts can kill some types of liver and breast cancer cells that are resistant to particular chemotherapy drugs. But there haven’t been any large scale studies in humans. So we don’t know yet whether it can work as a cancer treatment or not.
There are many claims that the fruit of the Graviola tree can kill cancer far better than chemotherapy, or can seek out and attack malignant cells. Often times, the reader will find claims that the fruit is 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy. However, as a 2008 study notes, again:
Graviola demonstrated anticancer effects in vitro, but has not been studied in humans.
Now, having said that, the author of this article urges much more in-depth, human study of potential benefits, and believes the answer indeed lies within our natural environments, but also cautions against our definitions of success. Because a compound is successful in vitro, or, in a petri dish full of cells, does not always translate into success in the human body.
This claim that soursop is so much more potent than chemotherapy is derived, in small part, from a 1996 study that found a compound isolated and extracted from the seeds of the soursop fruit (annona muricata) had “10,000 times the potency of the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin on colon adenocarcinoma cells. However, these results are for only one kind of chemotherapy drug. And, unless a cancer patient were to eat the fruit’s seeds, rather than the fruit itself, they would not receive the cancer killing compound.” Moreover, these tests were performed, once again, in the laboratory, and not in humans.
Additionally, the compound annonacin contained in the seeds of soursop is a neurotoxin and appears to be the cause of a neuro-degenerative disease [similar to Parkinson’s Disease]. The only group of people known to be affected live on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and the problem presumably occurs with the excessive consumption of plants containing annonacin. The disorder is a so-called tauopathy associated with a pathologic accumulation of tau protein in the brain. Experimental results demonstrated for the first time that the plant neurotoxin annonacin is responsible for this accumulation. – Thilo Körkel, Press Release
Big Pharma and Profits
There are several sides to the argument as to whether Big Pharma suppresses certain treatments or cures. It stands to reason that any successful corporation would seek to protect its profit margins, and it is very clear that the pharmaceutical industry makes billions upon billions of dollars every year by creating the newest and trendiest pills, treatments, and elixirs. But, more importantly, their lobbying efforts protect most of their cashflow.
Big Pharma’s revolving door at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) certainly shows interesting similarities in employment. On any given day, a Senior Legal Counselor for Merck or Pfizer might suddenly become Senior Legal Counsel at the FDA; a long-time policy writer for a division of the FDA gladly accepts a highly coveted compensation package over at Bayer, or Johnson & Johnson. One can quickly see how this might influence drug approval processes, as well as bring the heavy axe of the FDA enforcement unit against rising competition, or perhaps even natural extracts that can not easily be patented or synthesized.
The crux of the situation with soursop is the lack of human studies. With promise being shown in the laboratory, even for a few types of cancer, one could argue that cancer research funding would be well-spent studying this fruit more in-depth, especially as it relates to human studies.
But, who defines what is or isn’t “qualified human studies”? Typically, it is the pharmaceutical industry itself, as well as medical establishments and our educational institutes that receive large sums of financial contributions from the pharmaceutical mega-corporations. This deserves more investigation, in itself.
So why is Big Pharma not trying to synthesize this extract from the graviola tree and reap windfall profits on it as a better alternative to chemotherapy for certain colon cancers? 10,000 times the efficacy of present-day chemo drugs is nothing to laugh at.
If it indeed treats some liver and breast cancers, as well, why is the Susan G. Komen Foundation not running after it, throwing their $500 million yearly budget towards isolating this extract and proving or disproving its efficacy in the fight against breast cancer?
Natural Treatment vs. Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is incredibly invasive, costly and causes a variety of side effects, including:
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Rashes, redness, or pain in the hands and feet
- Increased risk of infection
- Easily bruising or bleeding for minor injuries
- Skin eruptions
- Cardiac issues
- Abnormal white blood cells
- Renal, ocular, and gastrointestinal disorders
These are only a handful of the issues surrounding the use of the colon cancer chemo drug Adriamycin, for which soursop is ten thousand times more effective at treating in initial laboratory studies. The initial evidence is there, and it is up to us to pressure the many “Cancer Research Non-Profits” to fund further studies, which can often cost tens of millions of dollars.
It is also up to us to question decades-old practices, who stands to benefit, and why we are not using more natural extracts in our fight against cancer.
Sources for this story include:
“Tauopathie durch pflanzliches Nervengift: Junior Award für Marburger Doktorandin” (Press release) (in German). Thilo Körkel. May 4, 2007. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
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