Clinical trials show venom can be used to kill malignant tumor cells, without harming healthy cells
Doctors in the United States are testing a possible breakthrough treatment for brain cancer. Scorpion venom has been administered to dozens of patients at four hospitals after researchers found that the agent selectively attached to tumor cells while sparing normal cells. One clinical trial taking place at a Florida hospital.
Brenner was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2003 and was given just months to live. He said at times his eyes went crossed or something and then he finally went to the hospital and had an MRI and they found that there was a sizable tumor.
When traditional treatments, including chemotherapy, failed to stop Brenner's tumor from growing, he enrolled in a clinical trial at Florida Hospital's Cancer Institute.
Here doctors administered purified venom protein from the Giant Yellow Israeli Scorpion. The venom was tagged with radioactive iodine to deliver localized radiation to the tumor cells.
Now three years later, Brenner's Doctor, Nick Avgeropoulos, says his patient has seen a ten-fold improvement in his prognosis.
"We don't have any other reason why he should be doing this well, except to say that it was this agent. Of course, like anything, an anecdotal story or an instance cannot be generalized to everyone, and that's why we do clinical trials. However, it's always encouraging to see that there's a possibility".
Dr. Avgeropoulos points out that while the most common cancer treatments kill healthy cells and are hard on the body, the scorpion venom only seeks out tumor cells and then attaches to them. When combined with radioactive iodine, the venom can be used to attack the malignant cells.
The agent is delivered in weekly injections through a catheter in the patient's head.
Brenner is just one of nearly 200,000 people in the United States diagnosed with a brain tumor each year, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
His progress and that of other patients given scorpion venom is being followed closely. The agent is performing well in studies on other types of cancer cells too, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the treatment on a fast-track for approval.
Listen to audio files for the whole story in Lao.