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Snake Venom Researched For Cancer-Fighting Drugs

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GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4)– Researchers at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley are looking for ways that snake venom might be used to fight cancer.

Professor Steve Mackessy said some of the venom he is studying comes from snakes like the Prairie Rattler. They also work with venom from lesser-known rear-fanged snakes, like the Brown Tree Snake. 1,500 species of rear-fanged snakes are the focus of the UNC labs.

“Ideally, we’d like to have something that will either minimize or eliminate cancer cell growth in the body,” said Mackessy.

They are focusing on three different types of cancer: melanoma, colon and breast cancer.

“One of the reasons for looking at those three is that they’re very, very common in humans here in the United States. It’s a critical health concern,” said Mackessy.

Researchers extract the venom and work to isolate individual elements of the venom that attack cancer, without hurting normal cells.

“What we’re interested in looking for are compounds that are hitting the cells specifically and leaving the normal cells okay,” said Mackessy.

“Keep in mind that it’s possible that the animal may have in its body, in its venom, something that can treat a disease or a disorder that you might have sometime in your life.”

The lab recently received $50,000 from the Colorado Office of Economic Development to help continue the research.

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