For the first time, Australian scientists tested the already proven anti-cancer agent – honey bee venom – on triple-negative breast cancer. This disease is extremely difficult to defeat, so alternative treatments will give hope to hundreds of patients.
Triple negative breast cancer is so named because its cells do not contain the receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2 protein. This means that hormone therapy is powerless against this type of tumor, which grows rapidly and can begin to metastasize already at the first stage. The likelihood of relapse after chemotherapy is high, while the survival rate after tumor removal, on the contrary, is extremely low.
Dr. Ciara Duffy of the Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research and the University of Western Australia and her team have shown that triple negative breast cancer is easily dealt with by melittin, a component of honey bee venom. In a paper published in the journal Nature, it is shown that a certain concentration of melittin can cause the death of 100% of cancer cells with minimal impact on normal cells in the body. Complete destruction of cancer cell membranes can occur in as little as 60 minutes. Bumblebee venom showed no similar effects.
Scientists have found that melittin turns off the signaling pathways that the tumor uses to grow and multiply cells. In addition, as it acts, the poison forms holes in the cancer cell membranes, where duplicate drugs can effectively penetrate. “Melittin can be used with small molecules or chemotherapy drugs such as docetaxel,” the scientists said. “The combination of melittin and docetaxel was extremely effective in reducing tumor growth in mice.”
Duffy’s work is the first study on the efficacy of melittin against breast cancer, although the effect of bee venom on tumor cells has been known for a long time. In 1950, the journal Nature published an article showing how bee venom reduced the growth of tumors in plants. Several years ago, Russian scientists also proved the effectiveness of melittin against certain types of cancer. Over the past two decades, interest in melittin has increased dramatically. The poison fights well against melanoma, lung cancer, glioblastoma, leukemia, ovarian, cervical and pancreatic cancer. This gives hope for an easy and quick cure for many patients from serious and terrible diseases.