Venom from honeybees has been found to rapidly kill aggressive and hard-to-treat breast cancer cells.
The venom – and a compound in it called melittin – were used against two cancer types which are hard to treat, reports Australian research.
The discovery has been described as “exciting”, but scientists caution that further testing is needed.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women around the world. While there are thousands of chemical compounds that can fight cancer cells in a lab setting, scientists say there are few which can be produced as a treatment for humans.
Bee venom has previously been found to have anti-cancer properties for other types of cancer such as melanoma.
What did the researchers find?
It tested venom from over 300 honeybees and bumblebees.
The honeybee extracts were found to be “extremely potent”, said Ciara Duffy, a 25-year-old PhD researcher who led the study.
One concentration of the venom was found to kill cancer cells within an hour, with minimal harm to the other cells. But the toxicity increased for other dosage levels.
‘Incredibly exciting discovery’, Chief Scientist says
Dr Duffy also examined the effect of melittin used in combination with existing chemotherapy drugs such as docetaxel.
She found the holes in breast cancer membranes caused by the melittin allowed the chemotherapy to enter the cell and worked extremely efficiently in reducing tumour growth in mice.