Snake venom toxins: Potential anticancer therapeutics

Benedict C. Offor, Lizelle A. Piater

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Snake venom contains a cocktail of compounds dominated by proteins and peptides, which make up the toxin. The toxin components of snake venom attack several targets in the human body including the neuromuscular system, kidney and blood coagulation system and cause pathologies. As such, the venom toxins can be managed and used for the treatment of these diseases. In this regard, Captopril used in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases was the first animal venom toxin-based drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency. Cancers cause morbidity and mortality worldwide. Due to side effects associated with the current cancer treatments including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, hormonal therapy and surgery, there is a need to improve the efficacy of current treatments and/or develop novel drugs from natural sources including animal toxin-based drugs. There is a long history of earlier and ongoing studies implicating snake venom toxins as potential anticancer therapies. Here, we review the role of crude snake venoms and toxins including phospholipase A2, L-amino acid oxidase, C-type lectin and disintegrin as potential anticancer agents tested in cancer cell lines and animal tumour models in comparison to normal cell lines. Some of the anti-tumour activities of snake venom toxins include induction of cytotoxicity, apoptosis, cell cycle arrest and inhibition of metastasis, angiogenesis and tumour growth. We thus propose the advancement of multidisciplinary approaches to more pre-clinical and clinical studies for enhanced bioavailability and targeted delivery of snake venom toxin-based anticancer drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-685
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Toxicology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • anticancer
  • antivenom
  • cell line
  • snake
  • toxins
  • venom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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