APR 13, 2017 7:31 AM PDT

Deadly Spider Could Aid in Cancer Surgery


Scorpions are pretty scary insects. With their large hooked tail and sometimes deadly bite, they are pretty much something you want to stay away from. One particular scorpion, called the Israeli Death Stalker Scorpion (in case a scorpion isn't scary enough, this one's name says it all) is especially ruthless and poisonous. Terrifying yes, but to one researcher they are "beautiful." That's because the venom of this particular predator has a unique ability. It can stick to cancer cells, causing them to fluoresce. This is especially helpful in complex brain surgery for blastomas. Very often, surgeons must leave behind large bits of tumors that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The venom of the Israeli Death Stalker is being investigated at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle because when it's altered to remove the poison, it can be injected into the brain, along with dye to seek and light up brain tumor cells.

The venom will not stick to normal cells, it's attracted only to cancer cells, and along with the dye, doctors call it "tumor paint." When surgically removing a brain tumor there is often other tissue alongside it and since cancer cells can't be visualized directly, it's hard to know what to take out and what to leave in. Surgeons just can't decide to take out hunks of brain tissue that's normal, just to make sure they get all the cancer. Thanks to this deadly desert dweller, the Israeli Death Stalker, cancer surgeons are able to better treat patients.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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