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Animal venom could fight cancer

Published on 12/08/2014

Animal venom from bees, snakes and scorpions could be used to combat cancer after successful trials showed that the toxins can kill tumours.

Snake venom could be used to fight cancer

Scientists have discovered that poisons commonly found in reptile bites and insect stings destroy skin and breast cancer cells in the laboratory.

The venom has been designed to prevent any harm coming to the patient by encasing the poison in a tiny particle that cannot leak into the bloodstream. Snake, bee and scorpion venom contains peptides and proteins that attach to the walls of cancer cells.

The research was presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco and was conducted by a team from the University of Illinois.

Dr Dipanjan Pan, of the University of Illinois, said: “We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory.

"These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue.

“The peptide toxins we made are so tightly packed within the nanoparticle that they don't leach out when exposed to the bloodstream and cause side effects.”

However whilst the poison can be contained it can also cause damage to the heart and nervous system as well as causing bleeding under the skin.

Dr Pan believes that if these dangerous side effects can be harnessed, the power of treatment could be great.

He said: “The main point is how we can control their potency. They are potent and that is why they are deadly, if we can use that power in our favour that would be wonderful.”

Bees do not make enough venom for efficient extraction but a suitable substitute has been tested to produce a synthesized melittin in the lab.

Venom from the snakes or scorpions could also be used to work as part of cancer therapy and human trials are expected to start within three to five years.

Health insurance can cover cancer therapies not always available on the NHS, you can compare comprehensive cancer policies online now.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2014

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