Is Bromelain from Pineapples a Miracle Cure for Cancer? Treatment Scores.

An acquaintance sent me an article about how a natural substance, bromelain, which comes from pineapples, is better than a "medical drug," better than a chemotherapy, for cancer. He got the article from one of "those emails" people get. I wanted to understand the science. Sometimes alternative medicines work and have medical studies to support them, and sometimes they don't. So I decided to search for the "amazing truth" mentioned in the article.

The article had a headline like this: "Pineapple Enzyme Kills Cancer Without Killing You." It seemed to imply that the pineapple enzyme bromelain can cure you of cancer. So using the tools at I created a diagnosis for cancer.

I decided to look at the main statistic = main outcome measure of "overall survival" for any available follow-up time period for adult patients.

I searched PubMed many different ways using the terms "cancer" and "bromelain." My most effective search technique came up with 111 total studies, 65 of which were human studies, and 3 of those were clinical studies. As I searched all these studies for "overall survival" statistics for the use of bromelain, I kept coming up with "no statistic."

Normally, I would be putting a statistic in the this box instead of "no statistic," because the way you do evidence-based medicine is you organize all the important statistics.

In this situation, a review of the medical literature, shows that bromelain has a treatment score of "0" or no data when it comes to increasing overall survival for cancer, according to the existing medical literature that I found.

All is not lost for bromelain however. There are laboratory studies and animal studies that suggest bromelain has mechanisms of action against various types of cancers. More studies need to be done, more laboratory studies, and more animal studies. And, finally clinical studies in human beings need to be done. In addition, if we looked at bromelain for another outcome measure, such as improving dry mouth and joint pain in breast cancer patients, it might well have a positive Treatment Score. can become a source for patient-generated research. If we quantify the net treatment benefit behind treatments, we can all see when research needs to be done, and patients, physicians, nurses, and all health professionals can come together to get the needed studies done.

Imagine a world where you could review the literature for all 57 treatments for an acute migraine headache, or you could review the literature for all 130 treatments for insomnia. And, you could actually learn more than you know now about the "net absolute treatment benefit" according to the medical literature. Imagine a world where transparency, evidence-based medicine, and shared decision-making could really happen. We are headed in that direction. (See the disclaimers at the end.)

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