A clinical literature review and research-trends analysis of bee venom pharmacopuncture for cancer patients

Article information

J Korean Med. 2020;41(3):247-259
Publication date (electronic) : 2020 September 01
doi : https://doi.org/10.13048/jkm.20038
Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Medicine, College of Korean Medicine, Sangji University, Research Institute of Korean Medicine, Sangji Univeristy
Correspondence to: Joo-Hee Kim Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Medicine, College of Korean Medicine, Sangji University 83, Sangjidae-gil, Wonju-si, Gangwon-do, 26339, Republic of Korea, Tel: +82-33-742-9268, Fax: +82-33-732-2124, Email: jhkim712@sangji.ac.kr
Received 2020 August 06; Revised 2020 August 13; Accepted 2020 August 14.



This review aims to investigate clinical studies related to bee venom pharmacopuncture for cancer patients and to analyze the research trend for further study.


We searched for clinical studies using bee venom pharmacopuncture therapy on patients with cancer through the electronic databases including Pubmed, Cochrane library, OASIS, KISS, NDSL, and KMBASE. There was no restriction on language and publication date, and after selection/exclusion process, the study design, target disease, intervention details including acupoints, treatment frequency and period, outcomes, study results and adverse events were extracted.


Thirteen clinical studies were finally selected. There were a randomized controlled trial RCT about the effect of sweet bee venom pharmacopuncture on cancer-related pain, and three case series about chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. In case reports, there were nine studies about oligodendroglioma, plexiform neurofibroma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, urachal adenocarcinoma, malignant melanoma, and atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance. The bee venom therapy affected the improvement of outcomes such as symptoms, quality of life, tumor response, and lab findings.


The present study found that bee venom therapy is applicable to the treatment of cancer patients, and showed some effect on various symptoms. However, due to insufficient number and quality of studies, well designed and high-quality clinical trials are necessary to confirm the effectiveness and safety of bee venom pharmacopuncture therapy in patients with cancer.

Fig. 1

Study flow chart

Characteristics of the Included Studies


This research was supported by Sangji University Research Fund, 2018. I thanks to my medical student Hyeon-Jong Yoo for performing study selection and data extraction.


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Article information Continued

Fig. 1

Study flow chart

Table 1

Characteristics of the Included Studies

Author, year Study design Patients (n) Interventions (n) Acupoint/Dosage Frequency of Treatment Concomitant treatment Outcomes Results Adverse events (n)
Yoo et al., 200830) RCT Patients with cancer-related pain (11) TG: SBV (6), 0.1mg/ml
CG: Placebo (5), normal saline
CV12/1ml daily for five days - 1. NRS
1) immediate pain relief
2) long term
1) T>C (p<0.05)
2) NS
Kim et al., 201831) Case report Breast cancer patient with chemotherapy-induced Side effects (1) nBV ST36, ST35, ST34, GB34, Ashi/0.2–0.4cc each point 3 times/week, total 10 session AT, MT, HM
Improved NR
Kim et al., 2015 41) Case report Oligodendroglioma (1) BV GV20, EX-HN1/0.2 mL each point once weekly for 18 months ATX, HM, PA(MG) 1. Tumor size (Brain MRI)
2. Symptoms
3. Survival
1. decreased markedly
2. improved symptoms
Lim et al., 201433) Case report Plexiform neurofibroma (1) SBV, intracutaneously the borders of the PNFs/5 mL every two weeks for 4 years PA(MG) 1. Tumor response (MRI)
2. Symptoms (hip joint pain, ROM)
1. the growths of the PNFs have almost stopped
2. improved symptoms
Park et al., 201432) Case series CIPN (4) BV, Ointment Hand and/or foot 1–2 times/day - 1. VAS 1. improved None
Yoon et al., 201234) Case series CIPN (11) SBV, 0.1 cun LI4, TE5, GB39, LR3/0.1 ml each point Total 6 session for 3 weeks - 1. WHO grading system,
2. PNQ
3. VAS
1. improved (p<0.01)
2. improved (p<0.05)
3. improved (p<0.01)
1. improved (p<0.01)
swelling and itchiness at the injection site (1)
mild fever (1)
Park et al., 201240) Case series CIPN (5) SBV, Melittin of 0.1 mg/mL, 0.1 cm EX-LE10, EX-UE9/0.1 ml each point 3 sessions over a 1-week period - 1. VAS: pain
2. WHO CIPN grade
1. improved: 8.75 –> 2.75
2. improved: 2.5–>1
3. improvedin physical section: 10.5–>18.5
Lee et al., 201142) Case report Prostate cancer patients (2) SBV CV12, CV6/0.3ml each point, LI4, LR3, ST36, CV3, SP6, CV1/0.1 ml each point 2–5 times/week AT, PA(MG) 1. PSA 1. decreased NR
Gu et al., 201143) Case report Lung Cancer Patient (1) SBV, 10% BL13, Ashi/0.4–0.6ml 3 times/week AT, MT, cupping, HM, breathing meditation 1. BDI
3. BAI
4. ASI
1. decreased
2. decreased
3. decreased
4. decreased
Choi et al., 201144) Case report Urachal Adenocarcinoma Patient (1) SBV LI4, LR3/0.1ml each point, BL20, BL21/0.25ml each point 2–3 times/week AT, HM 1. Symptoms
2. Lab finding
1. Stable
2. Stable
Park et al., 201045) Case report lung adenocarcinoma (1) BV CV12, GV3 every 2 days AT, MT, cupping, HM, PA(placenta), Massage, TENS, Hydrotherapy (hip bath and foot bath), meditation, exercise 1. Symptoms: exertional dyspnea with thoracic pain and pain in both upper limbs, emotional stress 1. improved disease-free survival of 28 months NR
Bang et al., 200746) Case report Malignant melanoma (1) BV, 10000:1 Lesion, 1.5ml Once a day for 1 year - 1. Tumor response (PET CT, Neck CT) 1. Stable disease None
Kim et al., 200547) Case report ASCUS (2) BV Lesion, SC 0.2–0.6ml Once a week, total 12 session - 1. Pap smear
2. HPV test
3. Cervical biopsy
1. negative
2. negative
(1) Immature metaplasia→Squamous metaplasia
(2) Squamous metaplasia→Koilocytotic change

SBV, Sweet Bee Venom; NRS, Numerical Rating Scale; NR, not reported; NS, non-statistically significant; nBV, non-toxic Bee Venom; CWG, Cultivated Wild Ginseng; TC, Trionycis Carapax; Common Toxicity Criteria for Adverse Event, CTCAE; ECOG, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group; MG, mountain ginseng; ROM, range of motion; CIPN, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy; PNQ, Patient Neurotoxicity Questionnaire; HRQOL, Health-Related Quality of Life; FACT-G, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General; PSA, Prostate specific antigen; BDI, Beck’s depression inventory; HRSD, Hamilton rating scale for depression; BAI, Beck’s anxiety inventory; ASI, Anxiety status inventory; ASCUS, Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance; HPV, human papilloma virus; SC, subcutaneous; AT, acupuncture; HM, herbal medicine; MT: Moxibustion; PA, pharmacopuncture; TENS, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation,