Greek Australian Scientist discovers spider venom could potentially kill cancer cells

Dr Maria Ikonomopoulou

Dr Maria Ikonomopoulou

New research led by Greek Australian Dr Maria Ikonomopoulou, has found that Australian funnel-web spiders have anti-cancer properties that can kill melanoma cancer cells in humans and stop them from spreading.

Inspired by a peptide found in the Brazilian spider 'Acanthoscurria gomesiana' which is known to have cancer-fighting properties, scientists at the Australian research institute QIMR Berghofer and the University of Queensland wanted to investigate Australian funnel-web spider's venom, as it carries a peptide of a similar chemical nature.

"In our laboratory experiments we found that the Australian funnel-web spider peptide was better at killing melanoma cancer cells and stopping them from spreading than the Brazilian spider peptide. Additionally, the Australian spider peptide did not have a toxic effect on healthy skin cells. When we tested the Australian spider peptide on human melanoma cells in the laboratory, it killed the majority of them." Dr Maria Ikonomopoulou stated.

There are many years of work ahead Dr Ikonomopoulou continued, but the early results look promising. The future could see the venom form the basis of new cancer treatments.

"These findings prompt us to continue investigating the potential of bioactive compounds derived from venom to treat melanoma, liver disease, obesity and metabolism … in collaboration with the biopharmaceutical industry"  she added.