Studies from the early 21st century show that by using scorpion venom to highlight cancerous tissues in the brain, doctors can detect and remove cancerous tissues more accurately.
“We have identified a highly selective group of peptides [with scorpion venom], which indicates that [venom particles] could specifically bind to cancer cells and cause their death,” said Laura Leticia Valdez Velazquez, head of research for the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Colima.
Velazquez is the director of the scorpion venom cancer treatment research project. She indicated that when toxins from scorpion venom invade channels in sick cells, they produce cellular damage until sick cells are eventually killed off.
A game-changing product used by cancer researchers known as Tumor Paint capitalizes on this idea and uses a protein found in scorpion venom to highlight cancerous tissues in the brain. This makes the cancerous tissues easier to see and therefore easier to remove. Tumor Paint also allows surgeons to remove cancerous tissues more accurately without removing any healthy brain tissues.
The venom used in Tumor Paint comes from the Centruroides tecomanus scorpion. This species is one of the most poisonous scorpions in the world. The Tumor Paint research team took advantage of the large population of the species found in Colima, Mexico.
Although Tumor Paint can help many people with brain cancer, it is—perhaps surprisingly—not a big seller. And, because of this, it also does not get much funding. Despite very minimal funding, however, proponents of Tumor Paint raised enough money to begin testing the product on humans in 2010.
Tumor Paint is a potentially important and innovative product. This tool saves lives and researchers hope it will continue to gain funding in the coming years. Maybe one day, Tumor Paint will be instrumental in treating a host of brain cancers.
[Source: Simpson Street Free Press Archives]