A fermented extract of the Noni—a fruit found in Southeast Asia and the Pacific—can help the immune system attack cancer cells, and may provide long-term cancer protection, according to a study published in Oncology Reports.

Noni (Morinda citrifolia) has been used in traditional Polynesian folk medicine for more than 2,000 years. Recently, researchers have discovered that Noni juice has the ability to destroy cancerous tumors.

“Fermented Noni may contain some bacterial and/or fungal materials, which may have the potential to engage the innate immune system through toll-like receptors (TLRs),” says lead study author Yanzhang Wei, PhD, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson University, and Assistant Director of the Clemson University Biomedical Institute. The innate immune system is the body’s first line of defense against infection, and toll-like receptors are important proteins that help trigger this immune response.

To help determine how the Noni fruit combats cancer, Dr. Wei and his colleagues studied the anti-tumor activity of a fermented liquid extract from the Noni fruit (fermented Noni exudate, or fNE) on sarcoma (cancer of the connective tissues) and Lewis lung cancer tumors.

The researchers evaluated Noni’s ability to both prevent and treat cancer. In the prevention study, female mice were injected with one of three substances: fNE, a phosphate-balanced solution (PBS, which is similar to saline solution), or lipopolysaccharides (LPS, a natural toxin found in bacteria and in fermented Noni juice) for three days. Then the researchers injected the mice with lung cancer and sarcoma cells. In the treatment study, the mice were first injected with the cancer cells, and then treated with three doses of fNE, LPS, or PBS.

After the mice were injected with fNE, they developed greater numbers of immune cells such as granulocytes (a type of white blood cell) and natural killer (NK) cells, indicating that fNE had stimulated their immune system. A month after receiving fNE for sarcoma treatment or prevention, more than 85 percent of the mice were not only alive, but also cancer-free. fNE also was effective against lung cancer tumor cells, although the tumor prevention rate was slightly lower (62 percent). Meanwhile, all of the mice that received PBS or LPS died.

fNE not only warded off cancer immediately—it also provided long-term protection. When the mice that had received fNE were injected with sarcoma tumor cells a second time, 15 out of 16 of them rejected the tumors.

Similar experiments were conducted with nude mice1 and beige mice2. All of the nude mice eventually died, but fNE was able to prolong their lives. The beige mice died within 20 days of receiving the cancer cells, which the authors say was because they lacked functional NK cells. These cells of the innate immune system were responsible for the majority of the response to fNE treatment.

“These results indicate that the activation of the first line of defense of the innate immune system is absolutely necessary to kill the tumor cells,” the authors write. However, the innate immune system alone is not enough to wipe out tumors. It must work in conjunction with the adaptive immune system—the part of the immune system that protects against re-exposure to the same harmful substances. fNE appears to activate both aspects of the immune system to destroy cancers.

Future studies will help researchers gain a better understanding of how fNE stimulates the immune system, and determine whether it might be effective against other types of cancers. For now, the fruit extract shows great promise as a cancer-fighting agent. “I feel positive that fNE or its derivatives will provide useful new options for cancer, especially for cancer prevention,” Dr. Wei says.

To learn more about Noni talk to your licensed healthcare provider.


1 A nude mouse is a laboratory mouse from a strain with a genetic mutation that causes a deteriorated or absent thymus gland, resulting in an inhibited immune system due to a greatly reduced number of T cells. (definition from Wikipedia)
2 Beige mice are another strain of mice that are immune deficient.

Li J, Stickel SL, Bouton-Verville H, Burgin KE, Yu X, Wong DKW, Wagner TE, Wei Y. Fermented Noni exudate (fNE): A mediator between immune system and anti-tumor activity. Oncology Reports. 2008;20:1505-1509.

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