Application of bee venom and its main constituent melittin for cancer treatment

Abstract

Bee venom and its main constituent melittin (MEL) have been extensively studied in the treatment of tumors. However, the non-specific cytotoxicity and hemolytic activity have hampered the clinical application. Currently, a number of research groups have reported a series of optimization strategies, including gene therapy, recombinant immunotoxin incorporating MEL or MEL nanoparticles, targeting tumor cells to attenuate the cytotoxicity and improve its antitumor efficiency and therapeutic capabilities, which have shown very promising in overcoming some of these obstacles. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge regarding anticancer effects of bee venom and its main compound MEL on different kinds of tumor cells as well as elucidate their possible anticancer mechanisms. It could be concluded that MEL exerts multiple effects on cellular functions of cancerous cells such as proliferation, apoptosis, metastasis, angiogenesis as well as cell cycle, and the anticancer processes involve diverse signal molecules and regulatory pathways. We also highlight the recent research progress for efficient delivery of MEL peptide, thus providing new ideas and hopeful strategies for the in vivo application of MEL.

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Correspondence to Hao Yang.

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Liu, Cc., Hao, Dj., Zhang, Q. et al. Application of bee venom and its main constituent melittin for cancer treatment. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 78, 1113–1130 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00280-016-3160-1

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Keywords

  • Bee venom
  • Melittin
  • Tumors
  • Anticancer effect
  • Mechanism