The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of 'Tumor Paint,' a product obtained from scorpion venom, for study in human trials in the United States with an aim to treat people diagnosed with brain cancer.
For the phase one trial, around 21 people with glioma - a tumor in the brain or spine - will be clinically tested with the 'Tumour Paint.'
How will this special product help? The paint apparently lights up the tumor cells present in the brain or spinal cord with special fluorescent molecules, thereby helping surgeons to target the tumor for removal.
'Tumor Paint' is designed to "provide real-time, high-resolution intra-operative visualisation of cancer cells, enabling better detection and more complete and precise surgical removal of cancer." It is made by using a particular protein derived from the paralysing venom of an Israeli death-stalker scorpion.
The re-engineered protein, which binds to cancer cells, is then joined with a fluorescent molecule "flashlight" that has been used safely in human surgeries for decades.
The product was developed by Blaze Bioscience, a Seattle-based company that develops products which help physicians to improve the lives of cancer patients. "It's really hard to get molecules into the brain due to the blood-brain barrier," Dr. Jim Olsen, a brain cancer specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital and a professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told ABCNews.com last year. He explained that the membrane around blood vessels in the brain is designed to keep out toxins. "Most drugs that are made by the drug companies can't penetrate that barrier. The scorpion has found a way to get these proteins in the brain."
Till now the Tumor Paint was experimented with only on laboratory rats and dogs with cancer. And the results were promising, reports Fox43. Blaze Bioscience, Inc. will recruit patients in the U.S. and Australia for its clinical trial.