Toad Venom May Become Cancer Treatment

U.S. scientists say they’ve found huachansu, a Chinese drug that comes from dried toad venom, had tolerable toxicity levels and may slow cancer progression.

Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center say they’ve found the venom secreted by the skin glands of toads has tolerable toxicity levels, even at doses eight times those normally administered.

The findings come from a Phase I clinical study, a collaborative research project between M. D. Anderson and Fudan University Cancer Hospital in Shanghai. The study, scientists said, marks the first time a formal clinical trial has examined the relationship between huachansu dose and toxicity.

Huachansu is widely in China used to treat patients with liver, lung, colon and pancreatic cancer.

“Studying traditional Chinese medicine such as huachansu is new to American research institutions, which have been skeptical and slow to adopt these complementary treatments,” said Lorenzo Cohen, one of the study’s authors. “We wanted to apply a Western medicine-based approach to explore the role of the toad venom compound in cancer patients and test if it is possible to deliver a more potent dose without raising toxicities or side effects.”

The trial was conducted at the Fudan University Cancer Hospital in China, while M. D. Anderson provided training and ongoing consultation.

The study appears in the early online edition of the journal Cancer.

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