Nanotechnology Kills Cancer Cells With Bee Venom

on Sunday, 21 April 2013. Posted in Bee Venom Research

Cancer Research Using Biomedical Nanotech Promises Hope of a Cure © Victoria Anisman-Reiner

New cancer research using bee venom and medical nanotechnology has been successful in targeting and killing tumor cells,...

New cancer research using bee venom and medical nanotechnology has been successful in targeting and killing tumor cells, presenting a possible future cure for cancer.

Bee venom is one half of a possible cure for cancer, reports the latest word in cancer research. The other half of the solution is nanotechnology. New cancer research conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has successfully tested nanoparticles carrying melittin, a toxin found in bee venom, to kill cancer tumor cells in mice. The study offers hope that the same innovative technique might soon be available for fighting human cancers.

How Does Biomedical Nanotechnology Work?
Nanotechnology, by definition, means technology on a very small scale. According to a recent CNN report, this means medical technologies smaller than 100 nanometers – 100 billionths of a meter. In other words, nanoparticles and other biomedical nanotechnology devices are smaller than many cells.

The "nanobee," the delivery device for the bee venom in this study, is about 10 times the size of a red blood cell: small enough to enter cancerous tumor cells but big enough to carry the drugs – in this case, the bee venom – that can kill a tumor.

Nanotechnology is part of a big transition in the way diseases are going to be treated in the near future. Two nanotech cancer treatments are already on the market: Doxil, an ovarian cancer drug, and Abraxane, a breast cancer drug. These cancer treatment drugs were approved in 1995 and 2005 respectively, and are still undergoing clinical trials.

Bee Sting Therapy a Reality for Cancer Treatment
Melittin, the principle toxin found in bee sting venom, has properties that make it the ideal cancer therapy: it is a powerful chemical that destroys cell membranes, ripping cells apart.

Unfortunately, it has the same effect on normal, healthy cells, which is why bee stings become inflamed and painful. Enter nanotechnology, and a fledgling cancer treatment is born.

Bee Venom in Nanotechnology Kills Tumor Cells
If it's impossible to inject melittin (also spelled melettin and melitten) into the bloodstream without doing serious damage, then nanoparticles are the perfect solution. Tiny "nanobees" carrying melittin are programmed to ignore most cells, only targeting those that have a specific protein on their surfaces – a protein found on the cell membrane of cancer cells.

When the nanobee detects the cancer protein, it injects its load of melittin into the cancer cell, and the tumor dies – with no damage done to any of the surrounding cells of the body.

The new nanotech cancer treatment was tested on mice with two strains of cancer, melanoma and human breast cancer, and results after a week showed that the growth of breast cancer cells slowed by 25% while the melanoma tumors shrank by 88%.

Although it could be years before this particular treatment reaches the market for cancer patients, it is a promising beginning for a nanotechnology that could eventually be in widespread use as a solution to the biggest problem in cancer treatment: drug delivery.

CNN, "'Nanobees' destroy cancer cell by delivering synthesized bee venom to tumors," www2., 19 August 2009.
Discovery News, "'Nanobees' Zap Tumors With Real Bee Venom,", 24 August 2009.
Wolf, Catherine, "Researchers use bee venom, nanotechnology to kill cancer cells,", 13 August 2009.