Study: Honeybee Venom Contains a Chemical (Melittin) That Kills Breast Cancer Cells

A very real study out of Australia’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research once again confirms that there are ways animal venom is applicable for medicine. This finding about honeybee venom is obviously significant since breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.

A groundbreaking discovery in Australia is giving new meaning to the term natural remedy. Using hundreds of honeybees, a new study reveals the venom in these insects’ stingers quickly kills breast cancer cells.

Dr. Ciara Duffy says honeybee venom destroys multiple types of breast cancer, even the hard to treat triple-negative variety. Her study in the journal npj Precision Oncology finds the venom not only eradicates these cancers, it also breaks up a cancerous cell’s ability to reproduce. It also contains a compound called melittin which researchers say helps this natural remedy stop the disease with remarkable speed.

“The venom was extremely potent,” the researcher from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research says in a media release. “We found that melittin can completely destroy cancer cell membranes within 60 minutes.”

In just 20 minutes, melittin breaks down the chemical messages breast cancer cells transmits to trigger both cell growth and cell division. The compound suppresses the receptors that commonly overexpress themselves in triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer.

Venom was also tested against hormone receptor positive breast cancer cells and normal breast cells. With a specifically concentrated dose of the venom, researchers are able to kill 100 percent of cancer cells. At the same time, the study finds bee venom does little harm to normal cells.

“This study demonstrates how melittin interferes with signaling pathways within breast cancer cells to reduce cell replication. It provides another wonderful example of where compounds in nature can be used to treat human diseases,” Professor Peter Klinkenhe from the University of Western Australia says.

Do all bees carry this special venom?

Although there are around 20,000 different species of bees, the study finds not every insect can fight cancer. Dr. Duffy’s tests on 312 honeybees and bumblebees from Perth, Western Australia reveal bumblebee venom does not induce cancer cell death. Honeybees from other regions however, share this special ability to rapidly stop the disease.

“I found that the European honeybee in Australia, Ireland and England produced almost identical effects in breast cancer compared to normal cells,” Duffy reports.

Researchers add Perth bees are some of the healthiest members of their species. While the study dissects live bee stingers to extract melittin, it finds this compound can be successfully reproduced in labs.

“The synthetic product mirrored the majority of the anti-cancer effects of honeybee venom,” the Australian scientist adds.

Adding honeybee venom to chemotherapy treatments

Study authors say melittin can also help current cancer treatments like chemotherapy. The report discovers melittin also forms numerous pores (tiny holes) in the breast cancer cell membrane. Duffy suspects other cancer drugs may be able to use these openings to penetrate the cells and kill the disease.

“We found that melittin can be used with small molecules or chemotherapies, such as docetaxel, to treat highly-aggressive types of breast cancer. The combination of melittin and docetaxel was extremely efficient in reducing tumor growth in mice.”

Using bee venom as a medical remedy has been studied since the 1950’s, but Duffy’s team says it’s only been considered as treatment for cancer during the last two decades. More research needs to be done to find out what kind of a dose human patients will require.

Study: Glyphosate is Directly Harmful to Bees

Glyphosate is a carcinogen that’s the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, and there’s now evidence that it’s directly harmful to bee populations worldwide. Bees of course play extremely important role in the world’s food production.

While it has been widely established by the scientific community that the class of pesticides known as  neonicotinoids (or neonics) have had devastating impacts on honey bees and other pollinators, new research shows that Monsanto’s glyphosate—the world’s most widely used chemical weed-killer—is also extremely harmful to the health of bees and their ability to fend off disease.

Documented in a new study by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the findings show, according to the Guardian, that glyphosate negatively impacts “beneficial bacteria in the guts of honeybees and makes them more prone to deadly infections” by damaging “the microbiota that honeybees need to grow and to fight off pathogens.”

Erick Motta, one of the researchers and co-author of the study, said, “We demonstrated that the abundances of dominant gut microbiota species are decreased in bees exposed to glyphosate at concentrations documented in the environment.”

Based on their study, Motta and her colleagues are urging farmers and homeowners to avoid spraying glysophate-based herbicides on flowering plants that are likely to attract bees.

Bee experts and advocates worldwide in recent years have been warning that humanity’s insatiable use of pesticides has been causing serious harm to bee populations that are essential to the global food supply.

While previous research has shown that use of glyphosate—the main active ingredient in Monsanto’s pesticide Roundup—indirectly harms bees by devastating certain flowers on which they depend, the new research is significant for showing the direct harm it has on the health of bees.

“The biggest impact of glyphosate on bees is the destruction of the wildflowers on which they depend,” Matt Sharlow, with the conservation group Buglife, told the Guardian. “Evidence to date suggests direct toxicity to bees is fairly low, however the new study clearly demonstrates that pesticide use can have significant unintended consequences.”