Do tarantulas terrify you? Are funnel web spiders your foe? These eight-legged, multi-eyed critters – all venom and sticky webs – have long provoked fear and loathing. And while we can’t promise this blog will cure your arachnophobia, we can perhaps give you one good reason to be a little less afraid.
SRxA’s Word on Health learned this week that Australian scientists are looking at the use of spider venom to fight breast cancer.
Researchers from James Cook University in Cairns, Queensland will determine if venom from funnel web spiders and tarantulas can kill breast cancer cells.
Queensland Science Minister Ros Bates said the research was initiated on the back of international studies that suggested certain toxins in spider venom could offer an untapped suite of natural molecules to kill breast cancer cells.
“With more than 40,000 species of spiders, it’s estimated there are more than four million different toxins in spider venom,” Bates said. “Those toxins will now be screened, to look at their potential to treat cancer in humans.”
Venom molecules are already used to prevent chronic pain, and scorpion venom has already been shown to bind to cancer cells in mice.
The minister said the work being done by James Cook University researchers had cemented Queensland’s place as a global scientific leader.
SRxA’s Word on Health applauds any move that will put these heinous creatures to good use and we’ll keep you informed on any developments in this story.