In laboratory studies, the active ingredient of honeybee toxin rapidly killed two types of breast cancer cells, which are particularly difficult to treat. Critically, the toxin released healthy cells.
For thousands of years, humans have used honey, propolis and toxin from European honeybees Apis mellifera In the form of medicines.
Recently, scientists have discovered that the honeycomb toxin and its active ingredient, melatin, are toxic to a wide range of tumors – including melanoma, lung, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer – in laboratory tests.
Melittin is a molecule that produces a painful sensation of bee stings. Scientists do not fully understand how it kills cancer cells.
For the first time, researchers have investigated the effects of melatonin and honeybee toxin on a range of breast cancers, including the two most aggressive and difficult-to-treat types.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Two invasive types, known as triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer, are associated with the worst outcomes. They develop resistance to existing treatments.
Also at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth, Australia, and the University of Western Australia, Perth, scientists found that the poisoning of meltin and honeybee rapidly kills these cancer types, with negligible effects on normal cells.
“Venom was extremely powerful,” Dr. Says Sierra Duffy, who led the research. “We found that melittin can completely destroy cancer cell membranes within 60 minutes.”
The study also showed that toxin from bumblebee, which does not contain melatonin, does not kill cancer cells – even at high concentrations.
Scientists report their work in the journal npj precision oncology.
Melittin can kill cells within 1 hour by perforating the pores in its outer membrane. However, within 20 minutes of administration, it also impedes the passage of chemical messages that require cells to grow and divide.
Dr. “We looked at how honeybee toxin and melatin affect the cancer signaling pathway, chemical messages that are fundamental to cancer cell growth and reproduction, and we found that very early these signaling pathways were shut down,” says Duffy.
Scientists discovered that melatin does this by inhibiting the activation of receptors for growth factors in the membrane of cells. One reason why HER2-enriched cancer cells and some triple-negative breast cancers grow uncontrollably is that they have large numbers of these receptors.
By preventing these growth signals from occurring, melatin inhibits the proliferation of cells.
Pro. Peter Klinkan, who was not involved in the research, is the chief scientist in Western Australia. He welcomed the findings, stating, “This is an incredibly exciting observation that melbetin, a key component of honeybee toxin, can suppress the growth of malignant breast cancer cells, especially triple-negative breast cancer.” ”
“Significantly, this study demonstrates how melatin interferes with signaling pathways within breast cancer cells to reduce cell replication. This provides another amazing example where compounds in nature can be used to treat human diseases. “
Because melittin makes holes in cell membranes, it may also allow existing chemotherapy drugs to penetrate and kill cancer cells.
To test this possibility, the researchers treated a mouse model of triple-negative breast cancer with a combination of melatonin and a drug called docetaxel. It proved to be more effective in shrinking tumors than docetaxel or melittin alone.
Doctors can use this strategy to increase the potential effect or reduce the dose of chemotherapy drugs, thereby reducing harmful side effects.
The study’s authors note that honeybee venom is relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain, making it a good alternative to cancer treatment in countries with poorly treated health services.
“Honeybee venom is available worldwide and provides cost-effective and easily accessible treatment options in remote or less developed regions. Further research will be needed to assess whether the venom of certain genotypes of bees has more potent or specific anticancer activities, which could then be exploited. “
This line of research is still in its infancy, with researchers yet to conduct clinical trials in humans to assess the safety and efficacy of melatonin for the treatment of breast cancer.
Although no evidence of damage to non-cancerous cells was found in this particular study, other studies suggest. Therefore, health professionals may need to carefully target melittin to the tumor to prevent collateral damage to healthy tissue.