Venom from honeybees rapidly destroyed cells that caused triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer cells, according to a study published in the journal ‘NPJ Precision Oncology.’
The study based its findings on Dr. Ciara Duffy and Harry Perkins from the Institute of Medical Research and The University of Western Australia’s tests that involved using the venom from over 300 honeybees and bumblebees species in England, Ireland, and Perth, Western Australia, on different clinical subtypes of breast cancer.
Their study investigated the honeybees and melittin venom’s anti-carcinogenic properties.
“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,” Duffy said in the release.
“We tested a very small, positively charged peptide in honeybee venom called melittin, which we could reproduce synthetically, and found that the synthetic product mirrored the majority of the anti-cancer effects of honeybee venom,” she continued.
Besides destroying cancer cells, melittin also reduced the cells’ chemical messages that allow carcinogenic cells to divide and proliferate within 20 minutes. Additionally, it can destroy the cancer cells’ membranes within an hour.
Dr. Duffy also tested the melittin to see if experts can use it in conjunction with existing chemotherapy drugs and said, “We found that melittin can be used with small molecules or chemotherapies, such as docetaxel, to treat highly-aggressive types of breast cancer. The combination of melittin and docetaxel was extremely efficient in reducing tumor growth in mice.”
Professor Peter Klinken, Western Australia’s chief scientist, said in the release, “This is an incredibly exciting observation that melittin, a major component of honeybee venom, can suppress the growth of deadly breast cancer cells, particularly triple-negative breast cancer.”
Although it’s a massive breakthrough, the release said that future studies are still needed to formally assess the best method of incorporating melittin in chemotherapy treatment, the maximum tolerated doses patients can handle, and potential toxicities.