Fact Check

Soursop ‘kills’ cancer cells?

A Uganda newspaper article gives the wrong impression that soursop can be used to treat cancer.
A Uganda newspaper article gives the wrong impression that soursop can be used to treat cancer. PHOTO: ST FILE

Where: This was published in New Vision, a Uganda newspaper, on May 29.

Checked: The headline gives the wrong impression that soursop can be used to treat cancer. The report said laboratory research on soursop was promising, but research with human subjects was needed to confirm its potential usefulness.

It quoted a 1997 study that said compounds from soursop were tested on breast cancer cells in culture and found to be up to 250 times more effective in killing the cells than some chemotherapy drugs.

Dr Wong Seng Weng, a consultant medical oncologist and medical director of The Cancer Centre in Singapore, said the limited data on the anti-cancer properties of substances extracted from soursop is based on laboratory studies using breast cancer cell cultures.

“There were no further scientific developments, which would require testing in animals prior to testing on human subjects.”

Most of the molecules discovered in research based on laboratory models fail in the long and arduous process of drug development, said Dr Wong. “I’d caution strongly against using soursop or its extracts as a substitute or complementary treatment in cancer care.

“Some of the substances found in soursop can cross over from the bloodstream into the brain and cause nerve damage.”

Soursop extracts are made from the fruit, leaves, roots or bark.

Cancer Research UK said many websites promote graviola capsules as a cancer cure but none of them are supported by reputable scientific cancer organisations.

Joyce Teo

• This column seeks to debunk fake health news around the world. It will run till the end of next month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Soursop ‘kills’ cancer cells?'. Print Edition | Subscribe