Honey Bee Venom and its Effect on Breast Cancer Cells

Honey Bee Venom and its Effect on Breast Cancer Cells

Bianca Schnerre, Writer

There is a new study about honey bee venom killing aggressive breast cancer cells. In laboratory studies the active component in the venom known as melittin quickly killed two types of breast cancer cells that are notably hard to treat. Most importantly the venom left healthy cells unharmed. This is the first time that researchers have investigated the effect of honey bee venom and melittin on a range of breast cancers including two of the most aggressive and hard to treat types. Triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer are the two aggressive types that are associated with the poorest outcomes. These types also tend to build resistance to the existing treatments. Scientists at Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the University of Western Australia both located in Perth, Australia have both found that honey bee venom and melittin quickly kill the two aggressive cancer types with little effect on the normal cells. 

Combination therapy could also be a possibility because melittin creates holes in cell membranes and that could allow existing chemotherapy drugs to penetrate and kill cancer cells. Researchers tested this possibility on a mouse model of triple-negative breast cancer. The combination of melittin and a drug called docetaxel proved more effective at shrinking the tumors than either of them alone.

Recently scientists have studied melittin, the active component in the honey bee venom on a wide range of tumors and it is also toxic to them. From the laboratory studies these tumors include melanoma, lung, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers. However, scientists do not fully understand how melittin kills cancer cells.