Scorpion venom helps treat brain tumors

A new method of delivering a dose of radioactive iodine by using a manufactured version of scorpion venom as a carrier targets gliomas without affecting neighboring tissue or body organs.

The first trial in human patients showed the approach to be safe. A larger phase II trial is under way to assess the effectiveness of multiple doses. Dr. Adam N. Mamelak, a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, led the phase I trial and is first author of an article in the August Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The key ingredient is TM-601, a synthetic version of a peptide found in the venom of the giant yellow Israeli scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus). TM-601 can break through the blood-brain barrier, binding to glioma cells and impeding their growth. If further studies confirm TM-601's properties, it could be used in tandem with standard treatments and allow for reduced doses, the researchers said.