UQ Pharmacy research: cane toads potentially lucrative export in cancer fight

31 March 2015

Wait before you whack that toad. Not only is it frowned upon to kill cane toads inhumanely, but the amphibian’s venom could be worth a bucket-load.
That’s the message from the UQ School of Pharmacy’s Dr Harendra Parekh, who is exploring how cane toad venom can be used to fight cancer.

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“People are killing cane toads by the millions for free, but it’s potentially a very lucrative export market for Australia with the Chinese being extremely interested in naturally derived health products,” Dr Parekh said.
“The Australian cane toad is very similar to the Asiatic toad, whose venom has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
“We already have several companies interested, as the Chinese value Australian toads because of the environment they enjoy here.”
Dr Jing Jing, former PhD student at the University of Queensland discovered that cane toad poison could kill cancerous prostate cells while sparing healthy cells.
“However, before we can take it to market, we need to improve the venom’s solubility (ability to dissolve) − which we are well on the way to achieving,” Dr Jing said.
“Investigating applications for other cancers is also firmly on our radar.”
UQ has previously secured a seed grant from Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Shenzhen China for the work being conducted in Dr Parekh’s group.
The research team hopes to begin validation in animals soon.
Cane toads were introduced to Queensland in 1935 to control the cane beetle, but quickly multiplied and were declared a pest.
They have since spread to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales.

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The UQ Pharmacy’s research programs are well-developed across a diverse range of areas. Quality, innovative research is a major component of the UQ’s commitment to the delivery of world-class education and health care outcomes. It is what equips UQ students for leading-edge positions on the rapidly changing health care frontier.

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Semester intake: February
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: November 15, 2015
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