Bee, snake, and scorpion venom have cancer-fighting properties

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Finding reported at the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) suggest that bee, snake, or scorpion venom may be able to be used to fight cancer.

According to lead investigator Dipanjan Pan, Ph.D., the venom toxins within nanometer-sized particles were able to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in vitro by remaining hidden from the immune system, thereby sparing normal cells and only killing cancer cells. This method eliminates adverse effects that venom toxins would typically cause.

Venom from these animals contains biological molecules that can attach to cancer cell membranes which would stop the growth and spread cancer. Because simply injecting venom into a patient would cause serious adverse effects like clotting, heart muscle or nerve cell damange, or bleeding under the skin, the anti-tumor substances within the venom had to be identified. One of those substances, melittin was chemically synthesized and inserted into nanoparticles.

The nanoparticles keep the toxin from seeping into the bloodstream and causing adverse effects. Pan says that the nanoparticles then go to the tumor where they attach to cancer stem cells, thereby blocking proliferation.

Future studies will evaluate this new method in rats and pigs, but Pan and his team hope they will eventually study the approach in patients in the next 3 to 5 years.

Drug allocation during a shortage
Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs.
Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists report. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects that the toxins would otherwise cause.

The report was part of the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society.

The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features nearly 12,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held here through Thursday.

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