One of the big challenges in modern medicine today remains the treatment of cancer. Treatments like chemotherapy – and to a certain extent, radiation therapy as well – are able to kill off cancer cells. However, they can also destroy healthy cells in the process, and the cells of the skin and of the lining of the digestive tract seem particularly vulnerable to this. These therapies also weaken the body’s ability to fight off cancer cells naturally due to immune system damage.
There are, however, some natural substances out there which appear to be able to kill off cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells around it intact. This is called selective cytotoxicity. One such substance with this property can be found in an unlikely source – pineapples.
Bromelain is a compound which can be extracted from the stems of pineapples – that hard core that is usually thrown into the compost bin when the soft fruit around it has been eaten. Bromelain has been capturing the attention of many in the naturopathic and traditional medical community since a study was published in the Planta Medica journal which found that in laboratory animals, bromelain wound up being more effective at treating cancer cells than 5-fluorauracil, a commonly used chemotherapy drug.
What has researchers so excited, however, is the fact that not only is bromelain a more effective treatment, it also did not appear to harm the animals or to damage healthy tissues. 5-fluorauracil, on the other hand, is known for its severe side effects. These side effects stem from the fact that this, and other chemo drugs, kills cells indiscriminately and do not differentiate between those that are normal and those that are cancerous. This can greatly diminish quality of life for cancer survivors.
Other Natural Substances with Selective Cytotoxicity
Apart from bromelain, a handful of other natural substances have shown the ability to selectively kill of cancer cells – something no chemotherapy drug has, to date, been able to achieve. These other natural substances include:
An extensive 15-years study carried out by a Dr. David Harrington found Vitamin C to be able to selectively kill of cancer cells.Exhaustive research has also found that extracts from the Solonaceae family, which include eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes and pepper, also have the ability to target and eliminate cancerous cells; these extracts appear to be particularly effective against skin cancers.Curcumin, the much-studied active component of turmeric, has displayed similar properties. In one study, lab rats with brain tumors were given extracts of curcumin, which eventually killed off the cancerous cells without effecting cognition, which led scientists to speculate that the healthy brain cells were left untouched.
In short, these studies of natural substances which appear to have selective cytotoxic properties offer new hope to cancer patients. In the future, these studies may translate into treatments which eliminate cancerous tumors while leaving healthy tissue intact, and give survivors of this disease a better quality of life than what traditional medicine has been able to provide so far.