(WFLA) – An Australian study found that honeybee venom rapidly kills certain types of aggressive breast cancer cells.
Those cells include triple-negative breast cancer cells and HER2-enriched breast cancer cells.
Venom from 312 honeybees and bumblebees in Perth Western, Australia, Ireland and England was used by Dr. Ciara Duffy from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the University of Australia.
“No one had previously compared the effects of honeybee venom or melittin across all of the different subtypes of breast cancer and normal cells,” Dr. Duffy said in a media release.
“We found both honeybee venom and melittin significantly, selectively and rapidly reduced the viability of triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer cells.”
Dr. Duffy explained the venom is “extremely potent,” and a specific concentration of the venom can induce 100 percent cancer cell death, with minimal effects on normal cells.
Melittin, the main component in honeybee venom, was found in the study to “substantially reduce the chemical messages of cancer cells that are essential to cancer cell growth and cell division” within 20 minutes.
“We looked at how honeybee venom and melittin affect the cancer signalling pathways, the chemical messages that are fundamental for cancer cell growth and reproduction, and we found that very quickly these signalling pathways were shut down,” said Dr. Duffy.
Dr. Duffy also tested to see if the component could be used with existing chemotherapy drugs, as it creates a hole in breast cancer cell membranes, which could possibly enable the entry of other treatments into the cell to enhance cell death, according to the release.
Studies will be required to assess the best delivery method of melittin, as well as other factors including maximum tolerated doses.
The study was published in the international journal “npj Precision Oncology.”