Bee, snake and scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs.
Scientists have devised a method for targeting venom proteins to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects which toxins would otherwise cause.
The report is part of the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, in San Francisco.
“We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory,” says Dipanjan Pan who led the study.
“These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue.”
Venom from snakes, bees and scorpions contains proteins and peptides which, when separated from the other components and tested individually, can attach to cancer cell membranes.
In the honeybee study, his team identified a substance in the venom called melittin which keeps the cancer cells from multiplying.
Bees make so little venom that it’s not feasible to extract it and separate out the substance time after time for lab testing or for later clinical use. That’s why they synthesized melittin in the lab.
Pan says the next step is to examine the new treatment approach in rats and pigs.
Eventually, they hope to begin a study involving patients. He estimates that this should be in the next three to five years.
This video explains the research:
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