“Multidrug-resistant cancer is hard to treat because the cancer cell has developed a mechanism to get around the anti-cancer agent,” says Jerry McLaughlin, Professor of Pharmacognosy, who studied compounds in the bark of the pawpaw tree for more than 25 years at Purdue’s School of Pharmacy. Professor McLaughlin is best known for his research with natural medicinal products, which pharmacognosy relates to.
“Tumor cells that survive chemotherapy treatments often recover with increased resistance to the agent used in the original treatment program as well as to other related drugs.”
Such resistance can develop when surviving cancer cells develop one or more mechanisms to accelerate the removal of noxious substances, including anti-cancer drugs. Unlike chemotherapy, the paw paw works to “starve” the cancer cells instead of poisoning them.
Without question, Dr. McLaughlin’s most important work lies in his contributions to our knowledge concerning the ‘Annonaceous acetogenins‘ found in the pawpaw tree. Following his observations in 1982 that the North American paw paw tree was potently bioactive, his group identified some 50 acetogenins in its seeds and bark with anti-tumor and pesticidal properties. The acetogenins not only selectively inhibit cancer cells, but they also thwart multiple drug resistant tumor cells. Dr. McLaughlin has published several scientific papers on that effect.