Venom from honeybees effective in fight against breast cancer

Venom from honeybees effective in fight against breast cancer

You catch more breast cancer cells with honey. Honeybee venom, that is.

Researchers from Australia are looking at the use of melittin, [me-LIT-in] a molecule responsible for the “ouch” factor of a bee sting, and honeybee venom on a variety of breast cancers, ranging from common types to some of most formidable and difficult to treat. The latter are notorious for their resistance to treatment methods that are otherwise effective for other breast cancers.

In their research, melittin destroyed cancer cells and left regular, healthy cells untouched. The molecule also prevented the cancerous cells from reproducing. Essentially, melittin acted as a chemical stop sign, disrupting the cells’ ability to communicate with each other.

Melittin, researchers say, also has the potential to enhance preexisting chemotherapies by making cancer cells more permeable as it breaks down their cell membranes, although they are still studying this in animal models.

Researchers pointed out that honeybee venom can be globally sourced and is cost-effective, while also potentially allowing providers to tweak the dosage of chemotherapy drugs that often have unpleasant side effects.

More studies are needed, as some previous research suggests healthy cells can actually be negatively affected, making it essential to precisely deliver honeybee venom to its intended target. Researchers are also hoping to determine if venom strength varies in different bee genotypes, potentially impacting the effectiveness of the treatment.

For now, consider this another reason to save the honeybees — pollinators and unlikely allies in the fight against breast cancer.

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