“ We found both honeybee venom and melittin rapidly killed triple-negative breast cancer and HER2- enriched breast cancer cells . ”
U sing the venom from 312 honeybees and bumblebees in Perth Western Australia, Ireland, and England, a team from the laboratory of Cancer Epigenetics at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (University of Western Australia) directed by Associate Professor Pilar Blancafort, tested the effect of the venom on the clinical subtypes of breast cancer. The research was led by Dr Ciara Duffy, with results published in the international journal npj Precision Oncology, revealing that honeybee venom rapidly destroyed triple- negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer cells. Wrays worked alongside the research team and UWA’s Technology Transfer Office to draft a provisional patent application in order to protect the valuable intellectual property generated as a result of this exciting research.
Congratulations on your recent ground-breaking research studying the effects of honeybee venom on breast cancer cells. Why did you decide to use bee venom to target breast cancer? Thank you very much! For thousands of years, humans have been using products from bees for medicinal purposes, including honey, propolis, and venom. In the past few decades, interest has grown substantially into the anticancer effects of honeybee venom, but no- one had previously compared the effects of the venom across all of the different subtypes of breast cancer and normal cells, and the mechanism of action is still not fully understood. Triple-negative breast cancer is one of the main clinical subtypes of breast cancer for which there is no clinically effective targeted therapy currently available, so unfortunately this subtype is associated with some of the worst prognoses and outcomes. Therefore, in addition to the other clinical types of breast cancer (such as the hormone receptor positive and HER2-enriched subtypes), we wanted to see if the venom could kill these cancer cells more than normal cells and try to understand the molecular processes underlying these effects. The results are incredibly exciting. Can you tell us a little bit about your research and what you found? The first step was to collect honeybee venom. The bees were collected from hives at the University of Western Australia and put to sleep with carbon dioxide before the venom barb was pulled out from the abdomen of the bee and the venom extracted by careful dissection. Breast cancer and normal breast cells were also grown in tissue culture. We tested the diluted honeybee venom across 11 different cell lines and found that the venom was extremely potent. Melittin is the main component in honeybee venom, which accounts for about half of the dry weight of the venom. It’s a small, positively charged peptide that opens up pores, or holes, on cell membranes that electrically destabilise and kill the targeted cell in a matter of minutes. We reproduced melittin synthetically and found that the synthetic product mirrored the majority of the anti-cancer effects of honeybee venom. We found both honeybee
USING HONEYBEE VENOM TO FIGHT BREAST CANCER
DR CIARA DUFFY Doctor of Philosophy – PhD in the Field Of Breast Cancer Treatment