October is breast cancer awareness month, and cancer treatment is an emerging area in venom research! Did you know that contortrostatin, a protein found in copperhead venom, has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors, slow angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels into the tumor that supply it with nutrients and allow the tumor to grow and spread), and also helped prevent metastasis (the spread of cancer cells to new areas of the body) in studies of mice implanted with human breast cancer cells?!
In a study conducted by Dr. Francis Markland at the University of Southern California mice were implanted with human breast cancer cells then treated with contortrostatin. The research shows that in mice, breast cancer growth was inhibited by 70-80%, and cancer was kept from spreading to the lungs by 90%. Contortrostatin caused a 60% reduction in prostate cancer tumor volume, and it stopped the spread of brain tumors and ovarian cancer.
This is not the first time that snake venom has been the basis of medical research or treatment! Other drugs derived from venom proteins include eptifibatide, which contains a modified venom protein from Florida's native dusky pygmy rattlesnake, and tirofiban, which contains a venom protein from the African saw-scaled viper. To learn more about some of these other treatments derived from venom, visit our article here