Monday, July 16, 2007

Scorpion venom will be used to fight cancer

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A glowing 'paint' derived from scorpion venom could improve the treatment of a wide range of cancers, say researchers.

Applied to tumours, the substance can distinguish cancer from healthy tissue, even when it affects only a few hundred cells.

The substance is chlorotoxin, a chemical found in scorpion stings, which attaches itself to cancer cells.

By joining chlorotoxin to a fluorescent marker, researchers in the U.S. have created a molecular 'beacon' that lights up tumours.

Painting a suspect area with the compound makes it easier for surgeons to remove every bit of cancer without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.

In tests on mice, it highlighted brain tumours as small as one millimetre in diameter. Researchers are now preparing for human clinical trials. They say the technique could be used in operating theatres in as little as 18 months. Link

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