Venom of Australian octopus may hold key to fighting Melanoma

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A native Australian octopus could hold the key to fighting one of the most serious forms of melanoma, researchers have found.

An international study has found early evidence that a compound in the venom of the octopus Kaurna, also known as the southern sand octopus, could significantly slow cancer growth.

Researchers also found the venom could help fight drug resistance in patients with BRAF-mutated melanoma, which accounts for about half of all melanoma cases.

Led by researcher Maria Ikonomopoulou, scientists tested the tumor-fighting properties of a range of synthetically reproduced venom compounds.

“We looked at venom compounds derived from various marine animals, but it was specifically the peptide from the Australian southern sand octopus that stood out for its ability to safely and effectively target BRAF-mutated melanoma cells in pre-clinical models,” she said.

It is hoped the findings will provide the foundation for a highly-targeted, less toxic treatment against cancer.

“It’s still very early days. But these findings offer hope that this octopus peptide may be developed into a cancer-targeted treatment that can safely and effectively be administered even in very high doses.”

Ikonomopoulou said many patients did not respond to existing treatments for BRAF-mutated melanoma.

“While targeted therapies and immunotherapy have improved outcomes, ongoing issues with drug toxicity and resistance hinder their overall success against cancer,” she said.

“While much more research is needed, our study shows this octopus venom compound has strong therapeutic potential.”

Researchers also want to investigate whether the compound has potential against other BRAF-mutated cancers, including those of the prostate, colon, and non-small cell lung.

The study is published in the British Journal of Pharmacology’s October issue.

Ikonomopoulou has previously found that an Australian funnel-web spider compound is highly effective at killing melanoma cells, as well as cells taken from facial tumors on Tasmania devils.

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