Many believe that the bee venom can cure several diseases—from reducing inflammation to treating chronic illness, but research in some of these areas is either lacking or conflicting. Now, as per a young scientist from Australia, her groundbreaking study has found that honeybees could have the secret to treating one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Dr. Ciara Duffy, from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University of Western Australia, conducted the study on bee venom and found that it could kill cancer cells within just 60 minutes.

The Revolutionary Finding

Honeybee
Honeybee Pixabay

Bee venom treatments are quite famous in several parts of the world. The 25-year-old Dr. Duffy, during her Ph.D. studies, tested the effect of the venom from 312 honeybees and bumblebees from Perth and Europe on types of breast cancer. She also tested its effects on triple-negative breast cancer—that test negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein.

As per Breastcancer.org, about 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple-negative breast cancers. It does not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or medicines that target HER2 protein receptors. "For doctors and researchers, there is intense interest in finding new medications that can treat this kind of breast cancer," added the website.

The new research findings, which were published in the international journal Nature Precision Oncology, have shown that the venom from bees and a component compound melittin, can rapidly destroy the triple-negative as well as HER2-enriched breast cancer cells. As per the Australian researcher, "The venom was extremely potent. We found that melittin can completely destroy cancer cell membranes within 60 minutes."

The study says a specific concentration of the venom caused 100 percent cancer cell death with minimum effects on normal cells. It was also found that in 20 minutes melittin—the major pain-producing substance of honeybee venom and a basic peptide consisting of 26 amino acids—was also able to substantially reduce the chemical messages of cancer cells crucial to cancer cell growth and cell division.

Research Process

For the study, the bees were put to sleep using carbon dioxide. They were kept on ice before the venomed barb was pulled out from the abdomen of the bees, extracted and injected into the tumors.

The young researcher from Australia also examined the effect of melittin used in combination with existing chemotherapy. She found holes in the breast cancer membrane caused by the melittin allowed the chemotherapy to enter the cell. As per the findings, it worked effectively in reducing tumor growth in mice.

However, Dr. Duffy said there was a long way to go before the venom treatment is delivered to cancer patients. Further research will be needed to formally assess the best process of melittin delivery, as well as to ensure the toxicities and maximum tolerated doses.

Dr Ciara Duffy
Dr Ciara Duffy at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research

Bee Venom Use and Potential Benefits

Bee venom treatments are quite famous in several parts of the world. In a Netflix series called (Un)Well, Brooke Graham, the founder of 'The Heal Hive'—who is not a doctor—a Lyme disease survivor and said, "What I know is chronic Lyme disease and how to heal yourself from it through bee-venom therapy."

She wrote in the website of The Heal Hive that "I took every experimental treatment promoted by my medical doctors —from Intravenous Immunoglobulin to Lyme antigens to ozone autohemotherapy among so much more," and after suffering for several years "I met nurse Gillian who had fully healed from chronic Lyme using bee venom therapy." A few years after starting bee venom therapy and changing the lifestyle as well as the diet, "I could finally say I was free of tick-borne chronic illness and that I had autoimmunity firmly in control," she said.

Rateb Sammour runs the Palestine International Centre for Apitherapy, in Gaza said that every day, almost 200 patients visit his clinic. As per Sammour, "We treat many diseases... osteoarthritis of the knee, sight issues, psoriasis, asthma, migraines, and many immune diseases," using bee venom therapy.