Cancer research today is a hopeful and exciting example of the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats.” For the first time in the history of cancer research, certain basic commonalities of all cancer processes are being recognized by scientists and revolutionizing cancer treatment. Cancer researchers are finding that treatments for one type of cancer may in fact be effective for treating other types of cancers. So even though a specific new type of cancer treatment may not be specifically linked to mesothelioma treatment initially, we should pay attention to it. It is quite likely that future mesothelioma research could possibly be proven useful for mesothelioma treatment too.
Cancer Research Highlights Potential of Brazilian Wasp Venom
Cancer research highlighted an intriguing new study published in the scientific publication Biophysical Journal. The researchers report that the venom of a Brazilian wasp can destroy cancer cells. The research was done by the collaboration of authors at the University of Leeds in the UK and Sao Paulo State University in Brazil.
The wasp known as Polybia paulista protects itself against predators by producing a type of venom that turns out to contain a powerful cancer-fighting ingredient.
Cancer research experiments show that the venom attacks and kills cancer cells only. It does not harm normal cells. If scientists can analyze the venom and recreate it in cancer research laboratories, it could possibly join the new arsenal of cancer drugs that spare healthy cells. For decades now, chemotherapy has had the unfortunate side effect of often damaging healthy cells and sometimes further weakening cancer patients. Because wasp venom characteristically does not pose a threat to healthy cells, it presents great promise by keeping healthy cells intact while attacking cancerous cells. Cell Membrane is the Focus of Venom Cancer Research
The wasp venom attacks a type of fat, known as lipids, in the surface of cells.
“Cancer therapies that attack the lipid composition of the cell membrane would be an entirely new class of anticancer drugs,” says co-senior study author Paul Beales, of the University of Leeds in the UK. “This could be useful in developing new combination therapies, where multiple drugs are used simultaneously to treat a cancer by attacking different parts of the cancer cells at the same time.”
According to new cancer research, the venom works by taking advantage of the abnormal arrangement of fats, or lipids, in cancer cell membranes. Their abnormal distribution creates weak points where the toxin attacks the lipids, which creates big holes in the membrane. These holes cause essential molecules in the cancer cells to start leaking out, like proteins, which the cell cannot function without. So the leaks caused by venom essentially deplete the cancer cells of what they need to survive and replicate.
The cancer researchers were able to do this study by creating models of cancer cell membranes in their laboratories.
Cancer Research On Wasp Venom Will Continue
Cancer research on the wasp venom next will try to understand how it is able to identify and attack only cancer cells. “Understanding the mechanism of action will help in translational studies to further assess the potential for this to be used in medicine,” Beales says. “As it has been shown to be selective to cancer cells and non-toxic to normal cells in the lab, this has the potential to be safe, but further work would be required to prove that.”
While no one would welcome being stung by a wasp, being able to harness the anti-cancer properties of the Brazilian wasp’s venom would offer an advance in cancer research welcomed by many. Especially if it is able to be effective in safely destroying cancer cells in many different types of cancer, including mesothelioma.