Bees' stingers hold new hope for cancer cure

Published : October 01, 2014

bees pollen beekeeper bee suit The venom in insect stings and reptile bites was found to kill breast and skin cancer cells in lab testing.
Credit: Getty Images

 

A promising new lead in the search for a cancer cure has turned up in a place that most people naturally avoid.

 

 

A team from the University of Illinois has discovered that bee, snake and scorpion venom contains toxins that can kill cancerous tumors.

 

“We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory,” says research leader Dr. Dipanjan Pan.

The venom is encapsulated in tightly packed nanoparticles to avoid leakage and potentially harmful side effects such as damage to nerve cells or the heart muscle, blood clotting and bleeding beneath the skin.

The potential life-saving effects of these deadly toxins have been investigated before. Ancient civilizations explored their use in the treatment of arthritis and neurological disorders. But modern lab-synthesized versions of the venom’s potent proteins and peptides ensure that there will be no issues with large-scale production.

The substance from bees, melittin, prevents cancer cells from multiplying. Pan explains that “venom from snakes and scorpions will work by inhibiting cancer stem cell-signaling pathways.”

The team, who presented their findings at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, believes that it will take another three to five years until the first human trials can commence.

 
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