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Radioactive Venom

August 14, 2006

Take scorpion venom, add radioactivity, and what do you get?


Making radioactive venom safe. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Pop quiz: Is exposure to radioactive scorpion venom a) the backstory for a Spiderman villain, or b) a potential treatment for brain cancer? If you answered a), you’re wrong; the comic-book Scorpion is actually the result of genetic engineering. But as for the cancer treatment, it’s a compound of radioactive iodine and a protein from scorpion venom that sticks to the tumor cells. Health physicist Alan Jackson and his colleagues at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are conducting safety trials.

ALAN JACKSON (Henry Ford Hospital):
This therapy goes directly to the place that you want it to go to, and it has an additional capability of destroying those cancerous cells.

It’s potentially less harmful than broader radiation treatments, but several more years of testing lie ahead. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.