Landmark Skybox

Breeze-Courier | Taylorville, IL
Advanced Search
search sponsored by


The Weather Network
LOGIN | SUBSCRIBE






home : columns : ask the doctors November 23, 2020

10/19/2020 7:41:00 AM
Bee venom shows promise, but needs more study

Dear Doctors: We heard a story on the news that bee venom can cure breast cancer. Is that really true? How does stuff like that even get researched?

Dear Reader: It's true that recent research has shown that an active component found in the venom from honeybees is toxic to certain types of cancer cells. Before we get any deeper into this topic, though, it's important to note these results were obtained in laboratory tests. So, while bee venom has indeed shown promise in killing a range of cancer cells, a treatment based on these findings that can be used in humans will take years more study and testing.

It may seem that using bee venom to fight cancer comes out of left field, but the idea actually reaches back to the dawn of medicine. The pharmaceutical use of honeybee products, known as apitherapy, dates back at least 5,000 years to ancient Egypt, China and Greece. Medical practitioners of the time used honeybee venom to treat joint inflammation and pain, and the antibacterial properties of honey were harnessed in approaches as various as treating wounds, easing indigestion and embalming the dead. In modern medicine, bee venom has become a subject of interest in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The venom that honeybees inject when they sting is a complex mixture of proteins, enzymes, sugars, lipids and other bioactive agents. The bulk of it is made up of short chains of amino acids, known as peptides, which are the building blocks of proteins such as collagen, elastin and keratin. The most abundant of these is a peptide called melittin, which is responsible for most of the medicinal effects of bee venom. (Don't worry, bee lovers: Melittin can be synthetically produced.) Scientists have been interested in the anti-tumor properties of melittin for many years, including in the fight against melanoma, the most virulent and deadly of the skin cancers.

The study you're asking about was conducted by scientists at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Western Australia and was recently published in the journal Precision Oncology. The researchers evaluated the venom from 312 honeybees and bumblebees and found it to be surprisingly effective at destroying certain types of cancer cells, including those in some subtypes of breast cancer. These include triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched, each of which has limited treatment options.

At a certain concentration, the serum formulated from the bee venom killed the cancer cells within an hour, and at the same time did limited damage to the surrounding healthy cells. The peptide melittin, which is already known for its ability to break down lipid membranes, was also able to disrupt the growth of the cancer cells. The researchers found that the peptide achieved this by disrupting the signaling pathways that cancer cells use to replicate, thus significantly slowing tumor growth.

These findings hold promise, but challenges remain. Compounds that kill cancer in a petri dish don't always translate into successful medications. More research is needed to create a safe and effective drug.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.





Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

If you are looking for the SPEAK OUT submission form, you can find it by clicking here: Speak Out Form


Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

NOTE: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address will not be displayed or shared.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Required
Last Name:
Required
Telephone:
Required
Email:
Required
Comment:
Required
Passcode:
Required
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.
   









Trinity Dodge Fixed
NewsWebPagesOpinionPeopleObituariesAg & BusinessSportsContact UsLife
Subscriptions | Username & Password Reminder | Change Password | Life

Breeze-Courier & Printing | 212 S Main St. Taylorville, IL 62568 | (217) 824-2233 |
website@breezecourier.com

© Copyright 2014 Breeze-Courier & Printing. All Rights Reserved.
Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Breeze-Courier & Printing.

Software © 1998-2020 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved