Honeybees are highly beneficial to humans in terms of providing honey as a food source. It is a huge industry and many people benefit from it. Humans also use honeybee venom for several treatments. A recent study shows that honeybee venom can be used in breast cancer treatment as well.
The research was published in npj Precision Oncology.
Honeybee venom consists of an essential component called melittin. This compound targets various types of cancer cells. The tests in the laboratory showed that this molecule can kill lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer cells as well.
The bee sting hurts due to this particular molecule present in the venom. However, scientists do not yet know why it targets cancer cells.
Many women die of breast cancer every year. This is one of the widely known types of cancer among women. Even though it also affects men but the percentage is quite low. There are 2 highly aggressive types of breast cancer. These are the most difficult types to treat.
One of these types is triple-negative and the other type is HER-2 enriched. Both of these types are difficult to treat as hey develop some resistance against the treatments.
The researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Australia, and the University of Western Australia studied the use of honeybee venom in breast cancer treatment. The researches found that melittin can target both of these types of breast cancer. Also, the side effect of this molecule on normal body cells is negligible.
Dr. Ciara Duffy led this study and said that the venom has high efficacy in killing the cancer cells. The study showed that melittin killed the cancer cells in under an hour. The researchers also found that the honeybee venom without melittin does not have the same effect on cancer cells.
Melittin targets the outer membrane of cancer cells. It makes holes in this membrane which kills the cell. It also hinders the chemical signals that keep the cell alive. The molecule blocks these messages and disrupts the growth of these cells.
The researchers found that melittin can also help increase the effect of chemotherapy drugs. The molecule makes holes in the membrane making a passage for other molecules. The chemotherapy drugs can enter the cells through these holes and kill them.
This method can also help reduce the total dosage of drugs used in chemotherapy. These drugs usually have a lot of side effects that harm the patient’s health. However, a lower dosage can help reduce the side effects.
The researchers also found that this honeybee venom is readily available and economical. This can provide a cheap breast cancer treatment. Also, it is a more economical option than conventional chemotherapy treatment.
The research is still in a laboratory test. The researchers will extend the study to clinical trials. Further tests will show the efficacy and safety of melittin in breast cancer treatment. Also, the researchers will study the effect of melittin on normal cells of the body. Hence, the researchers will look for a safe approach to only target the cancer cells in the body.