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FDA OKs clinical trial for scorpion venom-based Tumor Paint

Blaze Bioscience's founder Dr. Jim Olson, and his team of scientist, says Tumor Paint, when injected into the human brain, coats malignant cells with a bright fluorescent sheen.

By
Brooks Hays
A molecule found in the venom of deathstalker scorpions has proven capable of targeting and isolating cancerous cells. (CC/Yair Goldstof)
A molecule found in the venom of deathstalker scorpions has proven capable of targeting and isolating cancerous cells. (CC/Yair Goldstof)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- With approval from the FDA now secured, Blaze Bioscience, a young biotech company, will move forward with its plans to inject 21 cancer patients with so-called Tumor Paint -- a cancer cell-targeting compound derived from the venom of deathstalker scorpions.

Tumor Paint doesn't cure cancer, nor does it intend to. But it's creators believe it can help surgeons more completely eradicate malignant tumors by finding and highlighting all the cancerous cells in a person's body. And by highlighting, researchers really do mean highlighting -- glowing bright green.

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Blaze Bioscience founder Dr. Jim Olson and his team of scientists say Tumor Paint, when injected into the human brain, coats malignant cells with a bright fluorescent sheen -- ignoring healthy cells entirely. The compound's key ingredient is chlorotoxin, a molecule found in the stinger of Leiurus quinquestriatus. Chlorotoxin itself is not fluorescent, it simply handles the cancer-finding duties, while a dye included in the Tumor Paint peptide does the coloring.

So far, Tumor Paint has only been tested on lab rats, but it's shown promise, and now it will get its chance to prove its worth to human patients battling brain tumors. With the FDA's approval, Blaze Bioscience will now begin recruiting patients for its Phase 1 clinical trial. Patients will be selected in both the U.S. and Australia. The study is estimated to be concluded in December of next year.

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"The need for improved brain cancer therapy -- starting with surgery -- is tremendous. The Phase 1b study marks the initiation of our clinical program in this orphan indication," Dr. Dennis Miller, senior vice president of development at the biotech company, said in a press release. "We are starting with glioma, but our ultimate aim is to help patients with many different types of cancer by improving surgeons' ability to achieve more complete surgical resection."

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