Biotoxins for cancer therapy

Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(12):4753-8. doi: 10.7314/apjcp.2014.15.12.4753.


In recent times, a number of studies have provided evidence that biotoxins present great potential as antitumor agents, such as snake venom, bee venom, some bacteria toxins and plant toxins, and thus could be used as chemotherapeutic agents against tumors. The biodiversity of venoms and toxins make them a unique source from which novel anticancer agent may be developed. Biotoxins, also known as natural toxins, include toxic substances produced by plants, animals and microorganisms. Here, we systematically list representative biological toxins that have antitumor properties, involving animal toxins, plant toxins, mycotoxins as well as bacterial toxins. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge involving biotoxins and the active compounds that have anti-cancer activity to induce cytotoxic, antitumor, immunomodulatory, and apoptotic effects in different tumor cells in vivo or in vitro. We also show insights into the molecular and functional evolution of biotoxins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Toxins, Biological / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Toxins, Biological