Soursop is the fruit of the legendary tree Graviola which grows in the Amazon rainforest, but plenty of studies show that people could try it when chemotherapy fails. The sweet flesh and distinctive flavor transformed this fruit into juice, sorbet, candy and ice cream, but also into a supposedly powerful weapon against cancer which kills the damaging cells up to 10,000 times more efficiently than chemotherapy drugs. Cancer Research UK has carried out studies which reveal that soursop extract can kill certain types of breast and liver cancer cells which resist chemotherapy drugs, but the lack of large-scale studies in humans determined the charity not support the use of soursop to treat cancer.
Experts warn against using soursop to treat cancer, but certain studies show that this fruit is used by an increasing number of people when chemotherapy fails, especially since the main difference between the two options is that graviola does not harm the healthy cells. A study performed by a team at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center concluded that soursop kills pancreatic cancer cells by obstructing cellular metabolism and the ability has been confirmed not only in test tubes, but also in live subjects.
Another study carried out by scientists at Virginia Tech demonstrated that the extract of this fruit can diminish the growth of breast cancer without affecting healthy tissue. However, the subjects of the investigation were mice and, although soursop reduced the tumor growth by 32 percent, the results do not show that the fruit can be tried by people when chemotherapy fails.
Irrespective of the effect graviola has on cancer cells, parts of the tree and fruit have been used throughout time to treat asthma, heart diseases, arthritis and liver problems.
Daniel Kellman, Clinical Director of Naturopathic Medicine at Cancer Treatments Centers of America in Atlanta pointed out the fact that “soursop has been associated with many unsubstantiated claims.” A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in 1997 suggested that the compounds of this fruit are more effective in destroying cancer cells than chemotherapy, but clinical trials could not convince experts to accept the idea that soursop could actually be better than chemotherapy.
The reason why clinical trials could not be carried out is because of the fruit’s fatty acid derivates, namely annonaceous aceteogenins. Since the predominant acetogenin is annonacin, which proved to be toxic, tests cannot be performed in order to shed light on soursop’s benefits.
When eaten in ice cream or consumed in juice, the fruit causes no harm, but when used orally, Kellman stated that graviola “is classified as likely unsafe.” Because of the annonacin, eating the fruit could cause movement disorders and nerve damage similar to Parkinson’s disease and tea made from leaves and stems is associated with neurotoxicity.
Some cancer patients use soursop to relieve symptoms and treat their cancer, but herbal supplements made from this fruit taken while undergoing chemotherapy could even diminish the efficacy of the treatment due to probable herb-drug interactions. Although clinical trials have not demonstrated that soursop fruit can be tried when chemotherapy fails or instead of this remedy, studies continue to take this option seriously and seek evidence that graviola extracts can work as a cure for cancer.
By Gabriela Motroc