Scorpion venom and nanoparticles halt cancer spread by 98 percent

April 17th, 2009 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 17 (IANS) A deadly brew of nanoparticles and scorpion venom halts cancer spread by 98 percent. This is an increase of 45 percent from cases when the venom was used alone.
“People talk about the treatment being more effective with nanoparticles but they don’t know how much, maybe five percent or ten percent,” said Miqin Zhang, co-author of a new study on the subject.

For more than a decade scientists have looked at using chlorotoxin, a small peptide isolated from scorpion venom, to target and treat cancer cells.

Chlorotoxin binds to a surface protein overexpressed by many types of tumours, including brain cancer.

Chlorotoxin also disrupts the spread of invasive tumours. Specifically, chlorotoxin slows cell invasion, which is the ability of the cancerous cell to penetrate the protective matrix surrounding the cell and travel to a different area of the body to start a new cancer.

The MMP-2 on the cell’s surface, which is the binding site for chlorotoxin, is hyperactive in highly invasive tumours such as brain cancer.

Researchers believe MMP-2 helps the cancerous cell break through the protective matrix to invade new regions of the body. But when chlorotoxin binds to MMP-2, both get drawn into the cancerous cell.

Other researchers are currently conducting human trials using chlorotoxin to slow cancer spread. Zhang’s group investigated chlorotoxin action when it is attached to nanoparticles and found the resultant complex doubles the therapy’s effect compared to chlorotoxin alone.

Adding nanoparticles often improves a therapy, partly because the combination lasts longer in the body and so has a better chance of reaching the tumour.

These findings have recently been published in the journal Small.

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