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Scorpion Venom the Key to Cancer Treatment

Jan 06, 2015 02:40 PM EST

Scientists have long been in search of a cure to cancer, exploring every avenue possible. One scientist, Dipanjan Pan at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, has been looking to scorpion venom for the answer, making progress every day that shows their toxins may be the key to future cancer treatments.

Nature World News reported back in August how scientists were exploring how scorpion, bee and snake venom could lead the way towards the next generation of cancer-fighting drugs, with Pan's lab concentrating on scorpions. Toxins, naturally produced by plants or animals, in some cases can cause cell death. If researchers could target venom at proteins specific to cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed, they could potentially treat cancer.

Using advanced nanotechnology, Pan's team has recently successfully captured the scorpion venom toxin TsAP-1 in special capsules. Named NanoVenin, this encapsulated toxin is 10 times more effective at killing breast cancer cells, as reported in the journal Chemical Communications.

So far NanoVenin allegedly works on breast cancer cells, but Pan and his colleagues hope to modify the capsule's outer shell so that it can be used against various types of cancers. For example, the new drug can be altered to recognize secretions or outer proteins that are specific to different cancers, thereby triggering the degradation process of the tumor cells.

"We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory," Pan said in an American Chemical Society news release in August. "These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue."

Pan's work is showing progress every day, and he soon hopes to try the new treatment in rats and pigs. If successful, it could pave the way for similar treatments in humans in the next three to five years and change the world of medicine as we know it.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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