Can snake venom cure cancer?

Deadly snake venom may actually unlock the secrets to potentially life saving cures for cancer, diabetes and even high-blood pressure.

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2012 - It may appear counter intuitive that deadly snake venom may actually unlock the secrets to potentially life saving cures for cancer, diabetes or even high-blood pressure, but that’s exactly what some new research from the Australian National University is claiming.

An international consortium of researchers, headed up by Dr. Gavin Huttley, at The John Curtin School of Medical Research published a study in Nature Communications journal that demonstrates that deadly venom can be altered into innocuous compounds.

An abstract discussing the research findings explains, “results provide evidence that protein recruitment into venoms from physiological functions is not a one-way process, but dynamic, with reversal of function and/or co-expression of toxins in different tissues.”

That’s an incredibly complex explanation, but the importance of the research suggests venom molecules that were once toxic can be reverted into harmless elements. These harmless elements could be used in drug development research.

As Dr. Huttley explained his research outcomes in a press release, “The results strongly suggest that venom molecules have been modified for non-venom purposes in nature. This is proof-of-principle that an otherwise toxic molecule can be modified to provide benefit to an organism, supporting interest in exploring their pharmaceutical potential.”

The lead author of the study, Dr. Nicholas Casewell, further explained, “Our results demonstrate that the evolution of venoms is a really complex process,” adding, “The venom gland of snakes appears to be a melting pot for evolving new functions for molecules, some of which are retained in venom for killing prey, while others go on to serve new functions in other tissues in the body.”

The venom glands that have been studied also suggest that it may be possible to augment and modify molecules to serve an alternate purpose than to kill.

Researchers and doctors alike have been interested in obtaining a greater understanding of how venom attacks the body and by doing so hope to learn how to treat aliments in humans.

Perhaps, someday, research may lead to breakthroughs, which allow venom glands to be the epicenter and distributing mechanism for molecules, which rather than attack, aid and cure. That would be a dramatic advancement, but as the old saying goes that which “doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Indeed, in the future, it may well be the venom gland or replicating venom that function as the very means to lifesaving cures.

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Timothy W. Coleman

Timothy W. Coleman is a writer, analyst, and a technophile. He primarily focuses on international affairs, security, and technology matters, but Tim has a keen interest in history, politics and archeology, having visited more than 20 Mayan ruins in Central America alone.

Tim started off on Capitol Hill, worked on a successful US Senate campaign, and subsequently joined a full-­‐service, technology marketing communications firm. He has co-­‐founded two technology startup firms, is a contributing editor at and he is an intelligence analyst at the Langley Intelligence Group Network ( where he specializes in aerospace, naval, and cyber security analysis.

Coleman completed his BA from Georgetown University, an MBA in Finance from Barry University, a Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University at NASA Ames, and a Master’s of Public and International Affairs with a major in Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Coleman volunteers and serves as a member of the board of directors at the Lint Center for National Security Studies. 


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