Cancer, a disease that currently affects approximately 14 million people, is characterized by abnormal cell growth with altered replication capacity, which leads to the development of tumor masses without apoptotic control. Resistance to the drugs used in chemotherapy and their side effects stimulate scientific research seeking new therapies to combat this disease. Molecules from flora and fauna with cytotoxic activity against tumor cells have been studied for their potential to become a source of pharmaceutical agents. In this regard, snake venoms have a variety of proteins and peptides that have proven biotechnological potential. In several studies, antibacterial action and antitumor activity have been observed. One of the most widely studied venom components are phospholipases A2. Snake venom phospholipases A2 (svPLA2s) comprise a large class of molecules that catalyze the hydrolysis of the sn-2 position of phospholipids releasing fatty acids and lysophospholipids and are related to a broad spectrum of biotechnological activities. In addition to their specific cytotoxicity against some tumor cell lines, inhibitory activity of angiogenesis, adhesion and cell migration has been described. The antitumor activity of svPLA2s was observed both in vitro and in vivo, but little is known about the mechanism of action of these proteins in promoting this activity. In this review, the main structural and functional characteristics of svPLA2s are discussed, along with the mechanisms proposed, thus far, to explain their antitumor activity, targeting their potential use as a therapeutic alternative against cancer.
Keywords: Phospholipases A2, snake venom, antitumoral activity, mechanisms of action, biotechnological applications, cancer.