If you’re an aspiring medical researcher, your career may lead you to cancer breakthroughs using some unconventional approaches. In the fight against breast cancer, for example, researchers have begun investigating the use of spider venom—extracted from funnel-web spiders and tarantulas.
Cancer researchers at the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience hope the “cocktail of molecules” in specific spider venoms might just offer a more natural way to fight breast cancer. The two-year trial involving venom from funnel-web spiders hopes to isolate as many as 300 molecules in the venom and expose them to cancer cells. Spider venom molecules have evolved over millions of years to target very specific sites, and the hope is that some of these sites could include cancer cells.
Scorpion venom has already been shown to bind to cancer cells in mice. Researchers have made the cells glow, which allows surgeons to more clearly identify brain tumor cells. Scientists hope that spider toxins will highlight and even kill breast cancer cells.
Medical researchers have discovered that natural poisons, toxins, and venoms contain chemicals that can be used to create a variety of drugs for treating chronic pains and cancers. Take the cone snail, for example. Its venom is loaded with nerve-debilitating conotoxins, which can be lethal, yet the toxins have led to the development of a new painkiller. Then there’s contortrostatin, a peptide extracted from the venom of the southern American copperhead snake. The disintegrin peptide could possibly stop cancer cells from adhering or sticking to one another and arrest their growth.
If you have any thoughts on venoms used as anti-cancer agents, feel free to share them in the comments section.
Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients. Please see more of his blogs and view additional job postings on Nexxt.