M.D. Anderson turns to toxic toad venom

Todd Ackerman in the Houston Chronicle:

311xinlinegalleryA Houston hospital known for seeking the most advanced cancer therapies that modern science can develop is turning its attention to a centuries-old Chinese treatment: toad venom.

Scientists from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are investigating whether the stuff that some types of toads use to sicken their natural predators can also be a healer, as doctors of traditional Chinese medicine have long believed.

“Without hesitation, toad venom was the No. 1 drug (Chinese) doctors mentioned when we asked them to suggest the best natural cancer medicines to test,” Lorenzo Cohen, director of M.D. Anderson’s integrative medicine program, said from China. “It may sound wild to Americans, but it’s accepted as a standard of care here.”

It also appears to hold promise. In clinical trials Cohen is leading in Shanghai, the venom secreted by the Asiatic toad has shown some benefit and no apparent side effects in patients with advanced liver, pancreatic and lung cancer — which are not easy cancers to fight.

Cohen said he hopes to bring the drug to Houston to test on M.D. Anderson patients in a couple of years. It already has been tested successfully in laboratory and mouse studies at the cancer center.

More here.  [Thanks to Ruchira Paul.]