Nature’s Weapon: Bee Venom’s Battle Against Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is a common, yet potentially devastating form of cancer and it’s reported that the disease kills more than 42,500 Americans every year. While research into effective treatment for cancer is ongoing, this is still very hit-and-miss.

But new studies may give rise to hope for a natural solution to a global health problem; bee venom. But what’s the truth? Can Bee Venom Kill Breast Cancer Cells?

Studies in Australia suggest that bee venom has the potential to kill up to 100% of breast cancer cells without having a negative effect on healthy cells. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this research is ongoing.

Still, this information could be a viable option in future medical treatments and could have the potential to reduce the number of breast cancer-related deaths.

The Problem With Conventional Breast Cancer Treatments

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for breast cancer, and other types of cancer, but it’s not without its problems.

While this type of treatment has significantly reduced the number of deaths in breast cancer patients, it’s extremely aggressive and is known to reduce the quality of life of the patient.

Side effects of chemotherapy can include but are not limited to, extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, increased risk of infection, and loss of appetite. Naturally, these things put a lot of strain on the recipient so treating the disease is usually just as much of a challenge.

The Australian Research

At Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth, Western Australia, scientists have been looking at potential alternative treatments for breast cancer and bee venom has shown some serious promise.

The research has been looking at how a compound called melittin, found in bee venom, reacts with certain types of cancer cells that are particularly difficult to treat. The effect of this compound on these cells, HER2-enriched and triple negative, has been nothing short of amazing.

According to researchers from Perkins, melittin has the potential to kill up to 100% of breast cancer cells in as little as 60 minutes! What’s even more promising is that the effect on healthy cells is little to none so the treatment could not only destroy cancerous cells but also retain the quality of life of the patient.

In the case of triple-negative breast cancer cells, these are associated with certain subtypes of breast cancer and are known to be very aggressive. In fact, as things stand, treatment options are incredibly limited and patients with these subtypes of cancer have some of the lowest survival rates.

But, scientists have also been looking at how melittin can be used alongside other treatment options like chemotherapy or small molecules, and again, the results look promising. In fact, according to the results of studies in mice, the results were described as extremely efficient.

The benefit of using melittin alongside other treatments would not only reduce the need to administer cytotoxins which can reduce quality of life but it’s also reported that it would be a far more cost-effective option.

Does Synthetic Bee Venom Have The Same Effect?

What I found really interesting when looking into this topic was that scientists have attempted to recreate bee venom and the synthetic compounds had very similar effects to the real deal.

What’s great about this is that if we are able to use a synthetic version of melittin, we may be able to successfully treat breast cancer patients without the need to harm bee populations.

The bee venom in question has been taken from European honey bees and this is an incredibly important species for the ecosystem. The honey bee is one of the key pollinators for human crops as well as many other species of flowering plants.

If their numbers were to significantly dwindle then this would have a direct impact on the ecosystem and the economy. So, by creating a synthetic version of the venom, we would be saving human lives without sacrificing bees.

Further Research

The very first insight into the impacts of bee venom occurred in the 1950s when scientists discovered that compounds within the venom had the capacity to kill tumors in plants. Over the years, this research has continued to get us to the point we’re at today.

After discovering what bee venom is able to do to cancer cells, researchers at Perkins continued their work, looking at other types of cancer. Most notably, they looked at how bee venom might affect ovarian cancer cells and the results were just as positive.

Not only this but melittin is just one of hundreds of components within bee venom so researchers are in the process of looking at how other components may be able to be used in a medical capacity.

It’s also worth noting that similar studies have taken place using bumblebee venom in place of honeybee venom but the effects were not as strong.

So, How Does It All Work?

It might sound a little confusing to learn that bee venom can have such a significant impact on cancer cells. But it’s all to do with messages being sent to the cells that cause them to grow and how melittin interrupts those messages.

According to scientists, when melittin is administered, it has the ability to shut down the activity of the molecules that ‘operate’ those cancer cells. What’s more, the pathways that send messages to the cancer cells to grow are impacted when melittin is present.

Melittin is a positively charged peptide and when given in the correct dose, that’s when there is potential for it to kill 100% of cancer cells present within an individual.

However, there is still a lot of research to be done in order to find the maximum tolerable dose and how the compound is best delivered.

Final Thoughts

Cancer is a tragic illness that affects millions of people all over the world every year. In the United States, breast cancer takes the lives of tens of thousands of people annually. While women are more commonly affected owing to the greater amount of breast tissue, this is also a disease that can affect men and around 500 males lose their lives to the condition each year.

While there are treatments available, they’re not 100% guaranteed to work and they can have a significant impact on quality of life. However research has shown some promising results using bee venom.

Can bee venom kill breast cancer cells? It would appear, according to research, that it can. But there’s still a long way to go before this would be a readily available treatment option.