Cancer-Fighting Potential: Soursop's Key Compounds

  • Munira Ali MSc Medical Biotechnology and Business Management, Life science, University of Warwick
  • Raadhika Agrawal Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India


Cancer remains one of the most prominent challenges to modern-day global health, affecting millions of lives each year. Despite advancements in medical science, the search for effective and natural remedies continues. Soursop, a tropical fruit native to the Americas, has gained attention for its potential cancer-fighting properties. This essay explores the key compounds found in soursop that contribute to its cancer-fighting potential.

Soursop: A brief overview

Soursop, scientifically known as Annona muricata, is a green, spiky fruit with a distinct sweet and tangy flavour. Also referred to as graviola or guanabana, soursop has a long history of traditional medicinal use in various cultures. Beyond its delightful taste, soursop has emerged as a subject of interest in the scientific community due to its purported anti-cancer properties.1

Annonaceous acetogenins: nature's weapon against cancer

The primary compounds responsible for soursop's cancer-fighting potential are annonaceous acetogenins, also known as AGEs.1 These are a unique class of natural compounds with powerful biological activities. Researchers have identified over 120 different acetogenins in various parts of the soursop plant, including its leaves, seeds, and fruit pulp.2

Studies have shown that annonaceous acetogenins exhibit potent cytotoxic effects against cancer cells. They work by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and inducing apoptosis, a process that leads to programmed cell death. Unlike conventional chemotherapy drugs, which often target rapidly dividing cells indiscriminately, acetogenins selectively target cancer cells while sparing healthy ones.1,3

Mechanism of action

The mechanism by which annonaceous acetogenins exert their anti-cancer effects is multifaceted.

These compounds have been found to inhibit the activity of ATPase enzymes in the mitochondria of cancer cells. By disrupting ATP production, a crucial energy source for cells, acetogenins create an inhospitable environment for cancer cells to thrive.4

Moreover, studies suggest that annonaceous acetogenins interfere with the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in cancer cells. ATP is a molecule that serves as a primary energy carrier in cells. By disrupting ATP production, acetogenins create an inhospitable environment for cancer cells to thrive, leading to their eventual demise.5

Selective cytotoxicity: A promising trait

One of the remarkable characteristics of annonaceous acetogenins is their selective cytotoxicity. Unlike conventional chemotherapy drugs, which can harm healthy cells along with cancerous ones, acetogenins have demonstrated a preference for targeting cancer cells. This selectivity is attributed to the unique biological features of cancer cells, such as increased membrane permeability and higher energy demands, which make them more vulnerable to the actions of acetogenins.3,6

Research findings: In vitro and in vivo evidence

Numerous in vitro studies (lab-based research conducted outside of a living organism) have supported the anti-cancer potential of soursop and its acetogenins.1

These studies have shown promising results in various cancer cell lines, including breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer.7,8,9,10

While these findings are encouraging, it is essential to acknowledge the complexity of cancer and the need for further research to determine the full extent of soursop's efficacy.

Additionally, some animal studies have provided valuable insights into the potential therapeutic benefits of soursop in vivo. These studies often involve the administration of soursop extracts or isolated acetogenins to animals with induced tumours. While animal models cannot perfectly replicate the complexity of human cancers, they offer valuable preliminary evidence that warrants further investigation.11

Clinical studies and human trials: the road ahead

Despite the promising findings from laboratory and animal studies, the translation of soursop's cancer-fighting potential to clinical applications requires rigorous human trials. Long-term clinical research conducted to assess the safety and efficacy of soursop in cancer patients is required but limited for now.12

Challenges and considerations

While soursop's potential as a natural cancer-fighting agent is intriguing, several challenges and considerations should be considered. First and foremost, the dosage and formulation of soursop extracts need careful calibration to ensure therapeutic efficacy without adverse effects.13 Moreover, the variability in the composition of acetogenins among different soursop varieties and growing conditions poses a challenge in standardizing its use.

Furthermore, the interaction of soursop with existing cancer treatments and potential side effects must be thoroughly investigated. It is crucial to approach soursop as a complementary or adjunctive therapy rather than a replacement for established cancer treatments.


In conclusion, soursop's cancer-fighting potential, driven by its annonaceous acetogenins, offers a compelling avenue for further exploration in the quest for effective and natural anti-cancer agents. The selective cytotoxicity and unique mechanism of action exhibited by these compounds make soursop a promising subject for scientific inquiry.

While laboratory and animal studies have provided encouraging results, the transition to clinical trials and human studies is essential to validate soursop's efficacy and safety in the context of cancer treatment. Researchers and healthcare professionals must navigate the challenges and uncertainties associated with soursop's therapeutic potential. As researchers continue to unravel the mysteries of soursop's key compounds, the hope remains that nature's bounty may hold the key to unlocking new and effective strategies in the fight against cancer.


  1. Rady I, Bloch MB, Chamcheu R-CN, Banang Mbeumi S, Anwar MR, Mohamed H, et al. Anticancer Properties of Graviola (Annona muricata): A Comprehensive Mechanistic Review. Oxid Med Cell Longev 2018;2018:1826170.
  2. Zubaidi SN, Mohd Nani H, Ahmad Kamal MS, Abdul Qayyum T, Maarof S, Afzan A, et al. Annona muricata: Comprehensive Review on the Ethnomedicinal, Phytochemistry, and Pharmacological Aspects Focusing on Antidiabetic Properties. Life (Basel) 2023;13:353.
  3. Jacobo-Herrera N, Pérez-Plasencia C, Castro-Torres VA, Martínez-Vázquez M, González-Esquinca AR, Zentella-Dehesa A. Selective Acetogenins and Their Potential as Anticancer Agents. Front Pharmacol 2019;10:783.
  4. McLaughlin JL. Paw paw and cancer: annonaceous acetogenins from discovery to commercial products. J Nat Prod 2008;71:1311–21.
  5. Deep G, Kumar R, Jain AK, Dhar D, Panigrahi GK, Hussain A, et al. Graviola inhibits hypoxia-induced NADPH oxidase activity in prostate cancer cells reducing their proliferation and clonogenicity. Sci Rep 2016;6:23135.
  6. Chen Y, Chen J-W, Wang Y, Xu S-S, Li X. Six cytotoxic annonaceous acetogenins from Annona squamosa seeds. Food Chem 2012;135:960–6.
  7. George VC, Kumar DRN, Rajkumar V, Suresh PK, Kumar RA. Quantitative assessment of the relative antineoplastic potential of the n-butanolic leaf extract of Annona muricata Linn. in normal and immortalized human cell lines. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2012;13:699–704.
  8. Kim GS, Zeng L, Alali F, Rogers LL, Wu FE, Sastrodihardjo S, et al. Muricoreacin and murihexocin C, mono-tetrahydrofuran acetogenins, from the leaves of Annona muricata. Phytochemistry 1998;49:565–71.
  9. Zeng L, Wu FE, Oberlies NH, McLaughlin JL, Sastrodihadjo S. Five new mono tetrahydrofuran ring acetogenins from the leaves of Annona muricata. J Nat Prod 1996;59:1035–42.
  10. Abdullah M, Syam AF, Meilany S, Laksono B, Prabu OG, Bekti HS, et al. The Value of Caspase-3 after the Application of Annona Muricata Leaf Extract in COLO-205 Colorectal Cancer Cell Line. Gastroenterol Res Pract 2017;2017:4357165.
  11. Yajid AI, Ab Rahman HS, Wong MPK, Wan Zain WZ. Potential Benefits of Annona muricata in Combating Cancer: A Review. Malays J Med Sci 2018;25:5–15.
  12. Indrawati L, Ascobat P, Bela B, Abdullah M, Surono IS. The effect of an Annona muricata leaf extract on nutritional status and cytotoxicity in colorectal cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2017;26:606–12.
  13. Chan W-JJ, McLachlan AJ, Hanrahan JR, Harnett JE. The safety and tolerability of Annona muricata leaf extract: a systematic review. J Pharm Pharmacol 2020;72:1–16.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Munira Ali

MSc Medical Biotechnology and Business Management, Life science, University of Warwick

Munira holds an MSc in Medical Biotechnology and has a long-standing interest in how we can apply scientific findings to our everyday life. Munira finds that her day job as a scientist gives her the structure and discipline that scientific writing requires. Munira ultimately aspires to make science comprehensible and accessible to the general public. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818