MAY 11, 2019 7:35 AM PDT

Using scorpion venom to see brain tumors

Here’s something you probably never thought you’d hear: scientists have figured out a way to use scorpion venom to improve brain tumor imaging.

The new technique was developed by researchers from Cedars-Sinai and sponsored by Blaze Bioscience, Inc., and showed that a synthetic form of scorpion venom has the ability to bind to tumor cells and light up malignant growths, making them easier to see. "With this fluorescence, you see the tumor so much clearer because it lights up like a Christmas tree," said Adam Mamelak, MD, senior author and investigator in the trial. The conclusions from the clinical trial were published recently in the journal Neurosurgery.

The technique utilizes a special high-sensitivity near-infrared camera and an imaging agent tozuleristide, or BLZ-100, which has the synthetic version of an amino acid compound from scorpion venom. By adding a dye to BLZ-100, the near-infrared camera can better see the forms of malignant brain tumors like gliomas, which are often deadly and require surgery. If approved by the FDA, this technique will allow neurosurgeons to see the boundaries between the tumor and healthy brain tissue, which means they will be able to better spare healthy tissue during surgery while still removing all of the tumor.

The clinical trial was comprised of 17 adult brain tumor patients, all of whom received differing amounts of the BLZ-100 imaging agent before surgery. The scientists found that despite the different doses administered, the majority of tumors fluoresced for both high- and low-grade gliomas. Additionally, patients did not experience any serious adverse responses to the treatment.

An amino acid found in scorpion venom could help neurosurgeons see brain tumors better. Photo: Pixabay

The significance of this technique lays in the ease of the technology. "For a surgeon, this seamless integration of fluorescence imaging into the surgical microscope is very appealing," Mamelak said, because it allows surgeons to use both normal and fluorescent vision during surgery all with just one camera. The researchers hope that the technique will be able to be used for tumors beyond gliomas, and another clinical trial has already begun.

"The technique in this study holds great promise not only for brain tumors but for many other cancer types in which we need to identify the margins of cancers," said Keith L. Black, MD, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai. "The ultimate goal is to bring greater precision to the surgical care we provide to our patients."

Sources: Science Daily, Neurosurgery

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 13, 2021
Cancer
Ovarian cancer screening doesn't save lives, reports new study
MAY 13, 2021
Ovarian cancer screening doesn't save lives, reports new study
New research published in the journal The Lancet highlights the eagerly awaited results of the UK Collaborative Trial of ...
MAY 20, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Ovarian Cancer Screening More Beneficial for Early Cancer Detection
MAY 20, 2021
Ovarian Cancer Screening More Beneficial for Early Cancer Detection
A UK-based research study has shown that while ovarian cancer screening is beneficial for detecting cancers earlier, it ...
MAY 28, 2021
Cancer
Does your birth control increase your risk of breast cancer?
MAY 28, 2021
Does your birth control increase your risk of breast cancer?
A study published recently in EMBO Molecular Medicine considers the biological impacts of progestins from hormonal contr ...
JUN 10, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Does Lithium Prevent Colon Cancer?
JUN 10, 2021
Does Lithium Prevent Colon Cancer?
Researchers found that a drug used in the treatment of mental illness can promote the fitness of healthy gut stem cells, ...
JUN 12, 2021
Cancer
Using astronomy to image cancer tumors
JUN 12, 2021
Using astronomy to image cancer tumors
In an interdisciplinary breakthrough, a recent study published in Science describes the development of a new platform, d ...
JUN 18, 2021
Cancer
Cancer cell lines are too dissimilar from human cancer cells
JUN 18, 2021
Cancer cell lines are too dissimilar from human cancer cells
A new study finds cultured cancer cells lack genetic similarity to humans. This is concerning because cancer cell lines ...
Loading Comments...