A scorpion bite may actually save you life rather than end it

At the University of Washington, where researchers were already studying the effects of scorpion venom as a treatment for brain cancer, one group found that they could enhance the effectiveness of the venom by preparing a compound including nanoparticles. This venom/nanoparticle compound cut the cancer spread rate by 98 percent, compared to 45 percent from the venom alone.

The lead researcher on this study, Migin Zhang, professor of materials science and engineering, said the results of the study were surprising to everyone. “People talk about he treatment being more effective with nanoparticles, but they [didn’t] know how much — maybe 5 percent or 10 percent.”

An almost 100 percent improvement of the scorpion venom treatment alone was quite a bit more than expected.

Scientists have been studying the effects of a peptide called chlorotoxin that is extracted from scorpion venom to target and treat cancer cells. It binds to certain cancer cells, particularly those with MMP-2 cells. MMP-2 cells normally spread the cancerous cells to other parts of the body, but when the chlorotoxin attaches itself, it actually causes the MMP-2 to go inside of the cell, keeping the cell from exiting its immediate area.

The nanoparticles intensify the effects of the chlorotoxin because several chlorotoxin cells can bind to one nanoparticle and, as the compound is introduced to the cancer site, the chlorotoxins can attach to several MMP-2s, not just one. Additionally, nanoparticles help keep the chlorotoxins active longer, giving them additional time to do their work.
In addition to treatment for the spread of brain cancer, there are other cancers in which MMP-2 cells are active, including cancers of the breast, colon, skin, lung, prostate and ovaries. It is believed that the scorpion venom and nanoparticle treatment could also curb the spread of those tumors as well as the brain cancer tumors.

Human trials of the compound have not begun as yet.