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Scorpion venom offers improved cancer surgery

August 10, 2007
Precision is paramount in operations to remove tumours, when cancerous cells can be missed and left behind. It is especially important when dealing with the brain, where some 80 per cent of malignant cancers return at the edge of surgical sites and where surrounding neurons must not be damaged.
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A substance derived from scorpion venom could be the key to more effective treatment for a wide range of cancers, researchers say.
Turned into a “paint” which can distinguish even a small number of cancerous cells from healthy tissue, the venom would vastly improve surgeons’ accuracy when removing tumours.
Scientists found that chlorotoxin, a chemical in the venom, would attach itself to cancer cells. Joined to a fluorescent marker, Cy5.5, it becomes a molecular beacon which emits light near the infra-red spectrum, illuminating whole tumours or even clusters of only a few hundred cancerous cells. When injected, it sticks
17 Jul
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