The study focused on some subtypes of breast cancer, including triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a highly aggressive condition with limited treatment options.
TNBC accounts for up to 15 percent of all breast cancers. In many cases, its cells produce more of a molecule called EGFR than normal cells. Previous attempts to develop therapies that specifically target this molecule have not worked, as they will also negatively affect healthy cells.
honey bee (Apis mellifera) Toxin has shown potential in other medical treatments such as treating eczema, and has been known for some time to have anti-tumor properties, including melanoma. But how it works against tumors at the molecular level has not been fully understood. Now, we have taken a big step closer to the north.
Bees actually use melittin – the molecules that make up half of their venom and make their stings really painful – to fight their own pathogens. Worms produce this peptide not only in their toxin, but also in other tissues, where it is expressed in response to infection.
With their landmarks on this powerful molecule, researchers subjected lab-grown cancer cells and normal cells from Ireland, England and Australia to the poison of honey and bumblebees (Bombs terrist) Poison from England.
They found bumblebee venom – which does not contain meltin, but other potential cell-killers – had little effect on breast cancer cells, but honey toxin differed from all locations.
“This poison was highly potent,” said medical researcher Sierra Duffy of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. “We found that melittin can completely destroy cancer cell membranes within 60 minutes.”
When melatin was blocked with an antibody, the cancer cells exposed to bee venom survived – showing that melittin was indeed the toxin component responsible for the results in the first test.
The best part: meltin had little effect on normal cells, specifically targeting cells that produced a lot of EGFR and HER2 (another molecule that is highly generated by certain breast cancer types); It also messed with the ability to replicate cancer cells.
“This study shows how melittin interferes with signaling pathways within breast cancer cells to reduce cell replication,” said Peter Kleinken, Western Australia’s chief scientist, who was not involved in the study.
Taking its conclusion even further, the research team also designed a synthetic version of meltin to see how it would perform compared to the real deal.
“We found that the synthetic product showed the majority of the anti-cancer effect of bee venom,” Duffy said.
Duffy and his team then tested the pairing of meltin with chemotherapy drugs in mice. Experimental treatment reduces the level of a molecule that is used to detect cancer cells by the immune system.
“We found that melittin can be used with small molecules or chemotherapies such as docetaxel,” explained Duffy. “The combination of melatonin and docetaxel was highly efficient to reduce tumor growth in mice.”
Over-expression of EGFR and HER2 is also seen in other types of cancer, such as lung cancer, and these results suggest that they may be potential targets for melatin.
Of course, many things can kill a cancer cell in a petri dish, and researchers caution that there is still a long way to go before this bee’s venom molecule can possibly be used as a treatment in humans .
“Future studies will be required before human trials to formally assess the toxicity and maximum tolerated dose of these peptides,” he wrote in his paper.
But this formidable insect weapon provides another incredible example of chemicals found in nature that can also be useful for human diseases. However, we must remember that – as other organisms – honeybees are facing significant health hazards of their own.
This research was published in Nature precision oncology.