The death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) contain α-amanitin, one of the most deadly poisons found in nature. However, scientists from three German research centers are using that toxin for good—combating pancreatic cancer.
In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers attached α-amanitin to an antibody that binds to EpCAM, a cell surface protein abundant in human cancers. In a dish, the poison-loaded antibody arrested the growth of pancreatic, colorectal, breast, and bile duct cancer cell lines. In mice transplanted with human pancreatic tumors, the treatment resulted in tumor regression in 9 of 10 mice.
Alpha-amanitin is an ideal toxin for the treatment, the authors noted, because it is small enough not to be recognized as foreign by immune cells, but robust enough to hitch a ride on the antibody.
For more details, see the Fierce Biotech press release.