Day: April 15, 2007

Snake Oil Comes a Full Circle

Ah, back to the good old days of snake oil..

ScienceDaily: Snake Venom As Therapeutic Treatment Of Cancer?

This certainly sounds unusual, but Dr. Son and colleagues report on the effectiveness of the snake venom toxin (SVT) Vipera lebetina turanica in the inhibition of androgen-independent prostate cancer (AICAP) in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

These novel findings suggest that SVT can inhibit the growth of AICAP through the induction of cell death.

I am glad they put the question mark at the end, lest people extrapolate from a few cells in a petri dish (or a small animal study) to a cancer cure, as happened recently with dichloroacetate! Health reporting is very tricky because the average reader cannot understand much more than the headline. It almost seems like every health article should have the following things clearly labeled:

  1. Human, animal or cell?
  2. Clinically tested, or anecdotal?
  3. Double blinded, controlled, etc, or not?
  4. Any chance that this result applies to people?
  5. How far away are we from a real cure?
  6. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

At least viper venom is hard to find! The Madras crocodile bank helped start a venom extraction cooperative run by the Irula Tribe, so I’ve seen viper venom being extracted, pretty cool. India is home to two vipers, the Russell’s and the Saw Scaled vipers.

Russell's
Russell’s viper

saw scaled
Saw scaled viper.

The Russell’s is 3-5 feet long, and slow, but a big hisser! The saw scaled viper is tiny, a feet or two, but aggressive and very venomous. One of my favorite wild snake sightings was a saw scaled viper, looked very innocuous curled up in a parking lot in Pondicherry.

Cool, snake oil and venom for all…