Bromelain Has Potent Anti-Cancer Properties

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Nutrients such as bromelain and papain contain protease enzymes that have long been used for their anti-inflammatory properties, enhancement of tissue healing, and as part of anti-cancer nutrient support. The research supporting the use of bromelain as a tool in the war on cancer has been building over the past several years. Researchers have now identified several cancer-killing mechanisms of bromelain, including deactivation of the key gene signal NF-kappaB and induction of the autophagy process that causes the cancer cell to self destruct.

Your body naturally makes protease enzymes, which help to dissolve non-needed structures, such as scab material once healing has occurred. The debris produced from stress and physical wear and tear over the years eventually exceeds your body’s ability to clean up the mess. Thus, supplemental protease enzymes make a lot of sense to help you clear out tissue damage, even damage related to old injuries. These enzymes also appear to activate cellular house cleaning functions which are important to the maintenance of cellular health.

The history of protease enzymes as a support therapy for cancer treatment dates back many years. It was observed in pregnant women, when the placenta kept growing, when it should stop (a type of cancer) that the baby’s pancreas was failing to make protease enzymes. Thus began the folk medicine use of protease enzymes in the war on cancer – with the belief that the enzymes helped destroy the wall of tumors or had properties that made tumors not grow.

In the past few years protease enzymes from bromelain and papain have been subjected in Europe to rigorous clinical trials1 in breast and colon cancer patients. These studies showed that the natural enzymes significantly reduced the side effects of traditional therapy and the toxicity of the tumors. In addition, they’ve helped nausea, gastrointestinal complaints, fatigue, weight loss, restlessness, and improving quality of life. Testing also showed that for malignant tumors growing within soft tissue or the skeleton (plasmacytoma) these enzymes were able to increase response rates, the duration of remission, and overall length of survival.

A recent review of the literature on bomelain and cancer (which you can read in full2) shows multiple activities of bromelain that involve reduction of inflammation, improvement in the condition of the blood, and activation of immune cell function. The authors conclude by saying, “Traditional and anecdotal clinical evidence suggest that bromelain could be an effective anti-cancer therapeutic agent… We hypothesize that its activity is directed towards normalization of physiological balance. Building on recent in vivo investigations, laboratory studies and anecdotal clinical evidence, further research in this area may lead to promising results for the development of bromelain-based chemoprevention and adjuvant cancer therapy.”

A recent study on human cancer cells showed that bromelain could act directly to kill cancer cells3 and was possibly more than just a support for other cancer therapies. It directly knocked out the core aberrant gene signal, NF-kappaB, along with the inflammation that is typical in cancer. On the other hand, within the cancer cells themselves, it unleashed massive free radical damage that caused the cancer cells to die (something it does not do to healthy cells). 

Another recent study in human breast cancer cells showed that bromelain could activate the process of autophagy in cancer cells4, causing them to “eat themselves” and die. Autophagy is a normal house cleaning process in healthy cells. In cancer cells the process is hijacked. The fact that bromelain can turn the tables on cancer cells is quite interesting.

The science now supports the use of bromelain as part of a natural support strategy for any cancer treatment or for prevention. As more research is done the precise mechanisms of bromelain in the war on cancer will be better understood. The data to this point indicates that bromelain is yet another nutrient, like green tea, curcumin, quercetin, resveratrol, and tocotrienols, that are able to tell the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells, helping to kill the former while assisting the survival of the healthy cells. Big Pharma can only wish that it had drugs with such intelligence.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Bromelain and Papain in the War on Cancer  Integr Cancer Ther.   Beuth J.
  2. ^ Bromelain as an Anti-Cancer Nutrient  Cancer Lett.  Chobotova K, Vernallis AB, Majid FA.
  3. ^ Bromelain Kills Human Cancer Cells Via NF-KappaB Inhibition  Mol Carcinog.   Bhui K, Tyagi S, Srivastava AK, Singh M, Roy P, Singh R, Shukla Y.
  4. ^ Bromelain Activates Autophagy in Breast Cancer Cells  Biofactors.   Bhui K, Tyagi S, Prakash B, Shukla Y.

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