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Venom A Possible Treatment? New Study Finds Cancer-Killing Peptide in Rattlesnake Venom!


Introduction: If you follow TRC - or any organization which promotes the conservation of snakes -you've probably heard the phrase "venom saves lives". Snake venom has already been used in other medications, such as the heart medication Integrelin, which is a synthetic cyclic peptide derived from barbourin, a toxin found in pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) venom. Previously, contortrostatin - a peptide derived from the venom of Eastern copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) - had been found to attack cancer cells, but never made it to clinical trials. Crotoxin, the larger enzyme isolated from the South American rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus), had previously made it to Phase I clinical trials but was discontinued due to toxicity. New research may have just discovered a way to further dissect Crotoxin so that the cancer-stopping properties are retained while minimizing the toxic effects on other cells in the body. Dr. Patricia Bezerra and Dr. Eduardo Motti have just published a paper evaluating the capabilities of just one "part" of Crotoxin, a peptide named "3-NAntC", against human breast cancer cells.


The Breakdown:

Snake venom is a cocktail of complex proteins made up of smaller proteins and peptides. What the researchers here were able to do is break down the protein Crotoxin into smaller pieces, first separating the "business end" - Crotoxin-B from the smaller, acidic "assistance end" - Component A. From there, they were able to then separate three specific peptides from Crotoxin-B. One of the three peptides, now named 3-NAntC, showed significant cancer-inhibiting properties. 3-NAntC shows promise as a potential future cancer treatment, as it was able to significantly inhibit the growth of at least two different types of tumor cells, while showing only minor (<20%) inhibition of the growth benign cells. For comparison, 3-NAntC was then tested against doxorubicin and cisplatin, two existing chemotherapy drugs, for inhibition of cancer cells. While this rattlesnake-derived peptide showed comparable outcomes to cisplatin, doxurubicin was found to be more toxic to cancer cells. However, it is worth noting that the authors only compared the effects against cancer cells and did not compare the effects on non-cancerous cells.



Why It Matters: Breast cancer is both one of the most common types of cancerous tumor, and the second most common cause of cancer-related death in humans. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells, the kind that were tested in this study, are considered one of the hardest cancer types to treat and very few treatment options exist.

This discovery is significant; first, because it has likely demonstrated isolation of the cancer-inhibiting peptide (3-NActC) in Crotoxin from the other toxic components of the venom protein. Second, because of the minimal damage to non-cancerous cell cultures, this discovery may present a cancer treatment option with less side-effects than existing chemotherapeutic treatments. Further studies are needed to know for sure, and after that a series of clinical trials would precede any marketable product. But the good news is, this is a step in the right direction and more hope that in the future, venom can be used to save more lives! To read more and access the direct article, please follow the link below: Molecules | Free Full-Text | 3-NAntC: A Potent Crotoxin B-Derived Peptide against the Triple-Negative MDA-MB-231 Breast Cancer Cell Line (mdpi.com)

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