Scorpion Venom, Possible Cancer Cure

By Woodman · Aug 2, 2006 · ·
  1. Woodman
    Venom protein may lead to brain cancer cure- study
    (Reuters) Fri Jul 28, 2006 8:12pm ET

    By Amanda Beck

    WASHINGTON - Doctors seeking treatments for malignant brain tumors have found promise in the venom of scorpions, according to a study released on Friday.
    The study showed that a synthetic version of a protein found in the venom of giant yellow Israeli scorpions targeted tumor cells but did not harm the healthy cells of brain cancer patients.
    "We're testing a new agent that has a lot of potential for patients who have had no meaningful treatments thus far," said Dr. Adam Mamelak, lead author on an article to appear in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

    In the study, 18 patients first had surgery to remove malignant gliomas, a lethal kind of brain tumor. Then doctors injected their brains with a solution of radioactive iodine and TM-601, the synthetic protein.
    The solution bound almost exclusively to leftover tumor cells, suggesting that it could be combined with chemotherapy to fight cancer. Furthermore, two study patients were still alive nearly three years after the treatment.
    Because life expectancy for the 14,000 annual glioma patients in the United States is typically a matter of months, the results shore up animal research indicating that the venom protein may inhibit tumor growth even without a radioactive component, Mamelak said.
    "Does that mean that the drug was miraculous? No," said Mamelak, a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "But we have shown that it is safe and that we should at least move forward."
    The synthetic scorpion venom was developed by Transmolecular Industries, Inc., a Boston-based company, and is one of several medicines recently derived from animal poisons.

    Other researchers are investigating whether a protein in snake venom can stop bleeding and whether Gila monster venom can treat diabetes. They also have developed a painkiller based on the venom of a deadly sea snail.
    Work with these proteins and molecules is the natural progression from previous science studying simpler plant extracts that have yielded key medicines, said Michael Egan, president of Transmolecular Industries.
    "Evolution has had this stuff for a while, so chances are (animals) have a few things we can take advantage of," Egan said.
    Giant yellow Israeli scorpions live in the deserts of the Middle East and grow to about 4 inches long.

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  1. Woodman
    Sprry about the tease in th title.

    It should read "promising new treatment" instead of "cure"
  2. Forthesevenlakes
    either way this is fascinating stuff.

    kind of reminds me of another, older article, "Bees--Latest Weapon in Cancer Fight" here about the potential use of bee venom to treat cancer. wonder whatever happened to it? a sample quote:

    "The venom in the bee sting contains a number of active ingredients, the main one being mellitin, a molecule that kills cells by slicing through the cell walls, destroying the cells."What we have done is to modify the structure of the mellitin molecule to remove the part that causes the [FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif]allergic [/FONT][FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif]reaction[/FONT][/FONT] while still maintaining its ability to kill cells," CSIRO scientists Dr Werkmeister and Dr Hewish say.
    One problem the researchers have to get around is targeting the killing activity of mellitin to cancer cells only and not to normal healthy cells. They plan to achieve this by attaching the modified mellitin to an antibody molecule that specifically recognises cancer cells. This combination of a toxin and an antibody is known as an immunotoxin.
    The research team at CSIRO and POWH aims to produce immunotoxins as new cancer drugs that can attack a wide range of cancer cells. This approach should overcome the major drawbacks of [FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif]chemotherapy [/FONT][FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif]treatment[/FONT][/FONT]."

    swim also wonders, what if pharmaceutical industries became one of the major proponents of ecological conservation, simply because nature has accomplished things that researchers would not think of on their own?
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