Snake & Scorpion Venom Therapy

A protein in the venom of southern US copperhead snakes is an effective inhibitor of tumor growth and metastasis, researchers from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles report.

Dr. Francis S. Markland presented his group's findings here during the 40th annual meeting of the American Cell Biology Association.

The researchers isolated and purified the copperhead snake venom protein, which they named contortrostatin. In initial experiments, contortrostatin hindered the growth and metastasis of several different human tumors implanted in mice, including breast, ovarian and brain tumors.

"We found that the protein acts on the surface of the cancer cells and disrupts the cells structure. It also acts to immobilize the cell, inhibiting the cell's movement and decreasing the cancer's chances for spreading to other areas of the body," Dr. Markland told Reuters Health.

"Not only does the snake protein thwart the spread of new tumors throughout the body, it also stops the growth of existing tumors by inhibiting the formation of blood vessels that feed them," a meeting abstract notes.

"The next step is to get contortrostatin into clinical trials with people with cancer. We think this will happen by 2002," Dr. Markland said.

December 2000, American Cell Biology Association

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