Red scorpion venom inhibits cancer cell migration, research finds

The venom of the Indian red scorpion, which contains a powerful double mutant toxin called tamapine, is able to inhibit metastasis, that is, the migration of certain types of cancer cells, according to results obtained by scientists from the Institute of Chemistry (IQ) National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Federico del Río Portilla, researcher at IQ, and his doctoral student, Marlen Mayorga Flores, pointed out that the modification of tamapine produces a “blockage” of the movement of malignant cells by 60 to 70% using a small concentration of the toxin. of Mesobuthus tamulus, specifically for certain types of cancer such as breast, skin and prostate.

In a statement released on November 19, 2020 by the institution, del Río Portilla explained that the first step for malignant cells to become metastatic is that they begin to migrate. At first, they develop into a small organ or tumor that grows later and over time they can start to move to other parts of the body. This phase is responsible for the death of people with cancer.

Cells, he said, have “pores” called ion channels, through which they “feed”. In this way, for example, salts such as sodium, potassium or calcium ions, sugar and other nutrients enter.

At the University of Tours, France, university collaborators discovered that some of these pores, called SK channels, are important because if they are inhibited, they prevent the migration of cancer cells. And the tamapin mutant, in addition to being powerful, fulfills this specific function. The researchers found a few more of these mutants with the same effect, but not as effective as the double mutant, the release said.

The researcher further noted that SK3 ion channels are associated with certain types of cancer. “We know they are caused by breast, skin and prostate cancer. In other words, this toxin would be useful when cancer cells have these channels, which are the target of the mutant tamapine ”.

Del Río Portilla added that nuclear magnetic resonance and genetic engineering were used to enhance the effect of the toxin and obtain the mutants. “Tamapine perfectly blocks the SK2 ion channel, which is not so important in cancer; another, silatoxin, blocks SK3 better, which is important. So we made the first look like the second. We have succeeded in making tamapine the best SK3 channel blocker which until today has been reported from a natural product ”.

The information indicates that the change was improved seven times before it started to achieve cancer cell immobility. “The results make us think that if we tweak it a bit more, we can get a better drug. If we increase the concentration of the mutant tamapine, we hope that the migration of metastatic cells will decrease even beyond 60 or 70%, ”he said.

The next phase of the research is to continue the preclinical and clinical steps to verify its proper functioning. “We are about to improve it and start testing on animal models in collaboration with Mexican researchers.”

Another step is obtaining the national patent, a process that began in September 2020. The French team from the University of Tours, dedicated to the study of metastases and the involvement of ion channel modulation, has been included in the registry. to stop this carcinogenic process. “We came up with the model and they developed it and supported us in an impressive way,” admitted the researcher.

The results of this research are encouraging for the team, however, Federico del Río Portilla said that “obtaining a drug takes time. We believe that we can inhibit metastasis, but we have to be careful. We don’t do not want to create false hopes for the immediate future, but we are trying to improve the lives of people with this disease ”.

The study was published in July 2020 in the journal Medicinal Chemistry, Letters of the American Chemical Society.