Health: Cancer Treatment Clue Found in Beehives

The Story:

“Propolis” is a waxy material used by bees as a cement in repairing and maintaining the hive. One particular variety of propolis, known as Brazilian red, have shown an ability to inhibit the growth of cancer tumors and, even more optimistically, to shrink the size of the tumor.


This discovery is the consequence of recent renewed interest in “bio-prospecting;” looking in the natural world for materials that can have as yet unexploited medical uses rather than relying on what scientists can cook up in a laboratory.

In the words of one of the prospectors, Dr. Roberto Berlinck, “Bees produce propolis to protect the hive, so it’s no accident that the resin is bactericidal and anti-fungal. This had been reported previously by researchers who analyzed raw red propolis. In our study, we proved the anti-cancer effects of specific substances isolated from red propolis.”

In Pill Form:

The discovery does not translate into an immediate treatment for cancer. Further research would have to ensure that the toxicity of the Brazilian red propolis can be targeted properly. But it does help show how the chemical defense mechanisms that tumor cells create around themselves can be circumvented.


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