Paw Paw Pulls the Plug
On the best summer day in Minnesota, the sun shines bright
on the corn leaf, giving all the power the chlorophyll needs to take 6 carbon
atoms, and 6 oxygen atoms (leaving 6 left over to form oxygen gas for us to
breathe) and combine them with 12 hydrogens to make the sweet corn even sweeter.
Glucose is born. These 12 hydrogen atoms bond to the carbon ring, storing energy
in this sweet substance.
Along about the end of August, farmers pull pickup trucks
into the parking lots of towns and cities and the feeding frenzy begins.
Families that regularly don't eat together find a renewed bonding experience as
dozens of ears are stripped of their husks. Ultimately, it is the energy from a
strong summer sun that is harvested, prepared, and consumed.
Interestingly enough, the above scenario also takes place
in our bodies, at an atomic
level. Let's take a look at that.
Glucose comes to us in a ring of carbons. A six carbon ring is split into two three carbon
chains. These chains enter the famous Krebs cycle to finish the harvesting job.
Temporarily, hydrogen atoms bond to a useful intermediate that is known as NAD,
and so it becomes NADH. (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide reduced, for us
laypeople.) Eventually that hydrogen atom will be stripped off. When a hydrogen
atom is stripped off, energy is released from the breaking of the bond. The body
then grabs this hydrogen and bonds it with oxygen. In the end, we have energy
and water (one hydrogen bonded to two oxygen atoms).
There is a very interesting complex of proteins that make
up this aerobic factory. It is located within the inner membrane of the
mitochondrion, the small cigar-shaped energy factory within the cytoplasm of our
Five distinct respiratory complexes (processes) exist, each
with a specific purpose. Respiratory complexes one and two transport hydrogen
molecules from their respective carriers, NADH and FADH2, into a holding area
called the intermembrane space, splitting off electrons for transfer to complex
three, carried there by handy little carriers known as ubiquinone (appropriately
named because they are so ubiquitous or widespread). One of the forms of
ubiquinone is also known as CoQ10. [Co-Q10 is needed by every cell in the body
for energy production. See our
July ’03 Newsletter for an important link between Statin Drugs and the suppression of CoQ10 production by the liver.]
Hydrogen atoms collect, making a charged chemical battery.
When that charge builds up, the hydrogen atoms travel back down inside through
respiratory complex five, giving up their energy to a phosphate bond on a handy
little molecule with two phosphates already attached, making it three
phosphates, also known as ATP or adenosine triphosphate. That new phosphate bond
is a portable power supply for many cell functions. When the bond is released,
the energy is harvested and the molecule shifts back to its 2 phosphate form,
ADP (or adenosine diphosphate), which is ready to be recharged in respiratory
complex five again. Again, we get energy and water. (Ever notice how when you
expend energy, you sweat?)
Now in respiratory complex four, oxygen molecules are
transported by special heme (from the word hematin; a deep red
iron-containing group; think of hemoglobin, which is deep red) groups to join up
with hydrogen to form H2O or water. Once in a while, oxygen gets loose from the
heme groups and recklessly has a life of its own. It makes a new reactive
molecule—H2O2 or hydrogen peroxide —using a little more oxygen than before. When
respiratory complexes one and two are working right, plenty of hydrogens are
available for the water formation, keeping the cell in good shape. When they are
not working right, the peroxide molecules can trigger release of cytochrome c,
another electron carrier, which sets off a cascade of reactions leading to a
very severe consequence, the orderly destruction of the cell by programmed cell
death, or apoptosis. (This word has the second "p" silent across the Atlantic in
the UK, but well-trained scholars here in the US insist on keeping "pop" in
So where does Paw Paw come along? And how does it affect cancer?
Paw Paw belongs to the family of plants known as the
Annonaceae. One of its well-known cousins is Annona muricata or Graviola. Paw
Paw has some very long chains of carbon atoms. The special carbon chains are
called the Annonaceous acetogenins. These acetogenins have certain features in
common (and a few differences) that contribute some very interesting
modifications to the energy cycle mentioned above.
One key feature is the gamma lactone ring. This is at the
end of the carbon chain. Some acetogenins have one ring, some have two, a few
have none, and at least one has three. These molecules have been studied
extensively at Purdue University by a team led by Dr. Jerry McLaughlin. Many
other researchers, both at Purdue and elsewhere have spent many years uncovering
their chemical structures as well as testing them for their anti-cancer and
insecticidal properties. Their work has been published well over one hundred
times in science journals.
We told you about drug company that hid the results of
their secret testing of graviola, but Dr McLaughlin’s research has been freely
disseminated since he began.
Dr. McLaughlin's research team has isolated 28 compounds
from graviola. Each year, they find still more. In 2003 the first double ring
structures were isolated. Expect even more compounds to be found.
Back to the gamma lactone ring. It turns out that for most
tissues, this double ring structures provide just the right length and shape to
reach down a series of more than 100 protein pieces in respiratory complex one
to fit perfectly into the right place, the PSST subunit. They fit like a glove.
The researchers discovered that three OH groups in the right places stop NADH
from giving up its hydrogen. (You’ll see why this is important soon.)
The lactone ring (an acetogenin) comes in many varieties.
One double ring structure that seemed to out perform the others in stopping the
process mentioned above was Bullatacin. It was so effective that Purdue elected
to patent it. So, unlike the widely-held belief that plant materials cannot be
patented, Bullatacin was.
Why is it important to stop NADH from giving up its hydrogen?
By interfering with the harvesting of the hydrogen's
energy, the hungry cancer cell can no longer run its energy production
(metabolism) wide open. Cancer cells use up glucose at very high rates. Breast
cancer cells have 17 times the glucose uptake capacity of their normal tissue
counterparts. [See also the article Cancer Loves Sugar.] So their rate of
respiration is up to 17 times that of normal breast tissue. By shutting down
respiratory complex one, the rest of the mechanism is strongly affected.
Respiratory complex four, being starved for hydrogen, more readily forms
hydrogen peroxide, leading apoptosis, that cell to programmed cell death we
mentioned. [Hydrogen peroxide is one of the
oxidative cancer therapies we’ve mentioned in our Alternative Cancer Therapies
Because you do not want to inhibit the reactive peroxide,
it is highly recommended that, while on a Paw Paw regimen, you avoid using
Why many chemotherapy drugs are useless against cancer.
One interesting feature in slowing down ATP production by
the acetogenins is the fact that certain cancer cells have overexpression (a
fifty cent word scientists use “more than the average”) of a pump that is
powered by ATP energy. This pump, the "ABCB1" efflux pump to be exact, protects
the cancer cell from harmful agents like chemotherapy drugs. (Forty-eight ATP
driven pumps have been found in the body. Ten can pump drugs. Three are known to
be involved in multi-drug resistance.)
After a round of chemo, most of the ordinary cancer cells
succumb to the drugs, but some, with this special protective pump, expel the
drugs. So they continue to grow, becoming the majority. These drug resistant
cells grow to dominate the tumor. And since they are resistant, drug therapy
becomes less and less effective and cancer can no longer be controlled. But when
the ATP producing mitochondrion has its power plugged pulled by the acetogenins,
the cancer tumor cells lose their resistance given to them by this pump and can
be killed more easily. No ATP means no power to the pump.
Dr. McLaughlin and his team have discovered at least 50
different acetogenins in Paw Paw. Their activities were tested with various
cancer cell culture lines and it was discovered that many were very active at
low concentrations. Compounds from graviola were also tested. The best
acetogenins came from the double ring compounds in Paw Paw. (In currently
available products, a comparison was run by Dr. McLaughlin's staff to see how
active the products were in the brine shrimp activity assay, a screening test
for anticancer activity. The two brands tested required 24 times and 56 times,
respectively, that of Paw Paw to produce the same effect. This is quite
remarkable when you realize that the actual content of the Paw Paw capsule is
only 12.5 milligrams of the acetogenins. The other materials have hundreds of
milligrams of plant material.) When at least seven drug companies decided to
"pass" on the patented molecules owned by Purdue, Dr. McLaughlin decided that he
would still go ahead somehow to make Paw Paw's acetogenins available to people.
After he retired from Purdue, a job opening at an herbal supplement company for
a chief scientific officer paved the way.
Beginning there in 1999, he started work on the product.
After extensive research to discover the best way to extract the compounds and
to make sure that they were safe for human consumption, he decided to conduct a
human trial. The study began with twenty stage 4 cancer patients under the care
of a Reno, Nevada physician named Dr. James Forsythe. Their cancers were varied,
but all were refractory (resistant) to conventional treatments. In the first few
months of the trial, seven died. The other thirteen lived for at least two years
with their doctor calling them "stable."
By the end of the human trials, ninety-four patients with
diagnosed cancers of various types had participated. Dr. McLaughlin has reported
that as many as 8 in 10 found some benefit from using the Paw Paw. Many
continued some form of conventional treatments; though some opted to take the
Paw Paw only. The results of the trial will be published in a journal. It was
hoped to be published in 2004, but it might take a little longer, as it is a
very controversial paper.
Paw Paw is a twig extract that comes in a standardized form
in capsules. It is patent pending. There are many inferior Paw Paw products, so
be careful to get the standardized capsule product. One capsule is taken four
times a day with food. This applies to a person of a body weight of between
150-170 pounds. Larger people may decide to take slightly more. Thin people may
decide to take a little less.
Side effects are very slight, BUT should be noted.
Paw Paw has the power to make people throw up. It is a natural emetic, like
ipecac syrup. At the concentration given, most people do very well. Some report
feeling better after a couple weeks. This may be due to the cancer cells using
less energy, making more available to the rest of the body, or it may be due to
the lactone rings providing a lift not unlike the herb kava. At the time of this
writing, between 3000 and 5000 people are using Paw Paw in the US. We expect to
see a lower percentage of success as more people use it, because that is typical
pattern in all trials. We do not know precisely which types of cancer respond
best as yet. People in the human trial realized benefits six to eight weeks into
their regimen. People who respond to it should expect to continue taking it long
term, perhaps for the rest of their lives. But this is true of anyone beating
cancer. You have to continue some sort of regimen the rest of your life. You
have to make changes in diet and lifestyle that keep your entire body healthy,
as cancer is a systemic disease, affecting the entire system.
Rarely, someone might develop an allergy to Paw Paw just as
they could to strawberries.
Dr. McLaughlin does not recommend taking Paw Paw for
prevention. He reasons that a healthy person does not need to take antibiotics.
So unless a person was addressing a particular condition, he does not recommend
casually using it. It does have other uses as an herb. It appears to be
anti-viral (some reports of shingles being controlled by it), anthelmintic
(kills worms), anti-fungal (e.g. toe nail fungus), insecticidal (the Minnesota
state bird), and antiparasitic. It is an ingredient in a very effective lice
shampoo which also works well against fleas on dogs.
Dr. McLaughlin spoke to an audience in Columbus, Ohio about
his life's work shortly after he retired for a second time. This lecture is
available for viewing on video or listening to on audio at
For those who wish to purchase Paw Paw, the product that Dr
McLaughlin's created is available at
www.pawpawforhealth.com or you can write to