Nanoparticles With Scorpion Venom Slow Cancer Spread

Posted on April 22, 2009  Comments (5)

scorpion_venomIn a, chlorotoxin molecules, colored blue and green, attach themselves to a central nanoparticle. In b, each nanoprobe offers many chlorotoxin molecules that can simultaneously latch on to many MMP-2s, depicted here in yellow, which are thought to help tumor cells travel through the body. In c, over time nanoprobes draw more and more of the MMP-2 surface proteins into the cell, slowing the tumor’s spread. Image from the University of Washington.

University of Washington researchers found they could cut the spread of cancerous cells by 98 percent, compared to 45 percent for the scorpion venom alone, by combining nanoparticles with a scorpion venom compound already being investigated for treating brain cancer.

For more than a decade scientists have looked at using chlorotoxin, a small peptide isolated from scorpion venom, to target and treat cancer cells. Chlorotoxin binds to a surface protein overexpressed by many types of tumors, including brain cancer. Previous research by Miqin Zhang‘s group combined chlorotoxin with nanometer-scale particles of iron oxide, which fluoresce at that size, for both magnetic resonance and optical imaging.

Chlorotoxin also disrupts the spread of invasive tumors — specifically, it slows cell invasion, the ability of the cancerous cell to penetrate the protective matrix surrounding the cell and travel to a different area of the body to start a new cancer. The MMP-2 on the cell’s surface, which is the binding site for chlorotoxin, is hyperactive in highly invasive tumors such as brain cancer. Researchers believe MMP-2 helps the cancerous cell break through the protective matrix to invade new regions of the body. But when chlorotoxin binds to MMP-2, both get drawn into the cancerous cell.

Research showed that the cells containing nanoparticles plus chlorotoxin were unable to elongate, whereas cells containing only nanoparticles or only chlorotoxin could stretch out. This suggests that the nanoparticle-plus-chlorotoxin disabled the machinery on the cell’s surface that allows cells to change shape, yet another step required for a tumor cell to slip through the body.

So far most cancer research has combined nanoparticles either with chemotherapy that kills cancer cells, or therapy seeking to disrupt the genetic activity of a cancerous cell. This is the first time that nanoparticles have been combined with a therapy that physically stops cancer’s spread.

Full press release

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5 Responses to “Nanoparticles With Scorpion Venom Slow Cancer Spread”

  1. Gus
    April 23rd, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    A very interesting and informative article. It is often very difficult to find scientific articles which is comprehensible to ordinary people. It is also a very encouraging article in relation to cancer cells may be stopped from spreading. Thank you very much

  2. Anonymous
    April 25th, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

    Nanotechnology is getting more and more attention worldwide. Its not a long while before such nanoparticles and nano bots will actually be used commonly for treatment of various conditions, fighting tumors and cancer.

  3. Angela McCall
    May 8th, 2009 @ 10:48 am

    Interesting findings. I wonder why it is not in the mainstream news? In addition to the new technology that is developing, what about the untraditional methods such as an alkaline diet? AM

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    October 28th, 2009 @ 8:11 am

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  5. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Researchers Find Switch That Allows Cancer Cells to Spread
    February 15th, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

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