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Anti-Cancer Venom

August 12, 2014

Researchers are developing a technique to attack cancer cells with animal venoms.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Anti-cancer venom. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Animal venoms are powerful chemicals that help animals defend themselves. Despite their toxicity, they’ve been used in medicine for centuries. Now, scientists are trying to harness venoms’ power to target cancer cells.

DIPANJAN PAN (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champiagn):

These toxins are deadly. And so, as they say, with power, comes great responsibility.

HIRSHON

That’s chemist Dipanjan Pan of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who says that means attacking cancer cells while sparing healthy surrounding tissue. He and his team designed nanoparticles that specifically home in on cancer cells before delivering high doses of toxins derived from scorpions, bees, and snakes.

PAN:

And they will deliver their payload right to the cancer cell and spare all the normal cells.

HIRSHON:

Pan says the technique has successfully vanquished melanoma and breast cancer cells in the lab. They hope to test it in humans within 5 years. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.