Women's Health

Spider venom could lead to breast cancer cure, say scientists

A live Brown Recluse Spider crawls in a dish at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Wednesday, March 30, 2011. It's that time of year when the bugs emerge to bug us. Some can pose real threats _ Lyme disease from tiny ticks, West Nile virus from mosquitoes, or life-threatening allergic reactions to bee stings. But most bug bites in this country are an itchy nuisance. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A live Brown Recluse Spider crawls in a dish at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Wednesday, March 30, 2011. It's that time of year when the bugs emerge to bug us. Some can pose real threats _ Lyme disease from tiny ticks, West Nile virus from mosquitoes, or life-threatening allergic reactions to bee stings. But most bug bites in this country are an itchy nuisance. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)  (AP)

Australian scientists are studying spider venom with the hope it could hold the key to curing breast cancer.

James Cook University (JCU) Professor Norelle Daly has received a $205,000 research grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation to analyze whether the venom of tarantulas and funnel web spiders can kill breast cancer cells.

"Spider venom could hold great potential," said the biochemist, who joined JCU last month. "This is early days and we're doing preliminary research that we hope will go somewhere."

Daly will test her theory in the lab by isolating the hundreds of molecules in spider venom and exposing them to cancer cells to see how they react.

She hopes the complex mix of molecules in the venom could offer a solution to breast cancer treatment.

"What we would hope to find is a molecule that looks promising in killing the cells," Daly said. "You would like to see that you could prevent the cancer from spreading and remove it as well."

Daly is also studying the gac, a spiky, red Southeast Asian fruit, which has shown promising results in the lab in fighting cancer.

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