EDINBURGH, Scotland — Could gold be used as a medical treatment to help reduce the symptoms of cancer? A new study shows that a medical device using gold nanoparticles may enhance the benefits of cancer medications.
Researchers from Edinburgh University recognized that the precious metal is capable of accelerating and catalyzing chemical reactions, so they sought to discover if these processes are applicable in living creature.
To accomplish this, they used a tiny chemical device containing gold fragments, or “nanoparticles,” combined with common cancer treatments. They confirmed the that procedure was viable after testing it on the brain of a zebrafish, which led them to agree that it could be used on other animals or humans.
The team of scientists also studied the device’s effects of cancer medications that were applied to lung cancer cells inside a petri dish. The results showed that the nanoparticles activated the medicines, enhancing the benefits.
“We have discovered new properties of gold that were previously unknown and our findings suggest that the metal could be used to release drugs inside tumors very safely,” says Dr. Asier Unciti-Broceta, a cancer specialist at the university, in a press release.
While Unciti-Broceta is hopeful about the use of gold to fight cancer, he recognizes that more research is needed before doctors can apply the technique on humans.
“There is still work to do before we can use this on patients, but this study is a step forward. We hope that a similar device in humans could one day be implanted by surgeons to activate chemotherapy directly in tumors and reduce harmful effects to healthy organs,” he says.
Dr. Aine McCarthy, a senior science information officer at the university’s cancer research center Like his colleague Unciti-Broceta, feels confident that the study has proved gold to be beneficial for treating cancer without harming surrounding cells.
“By developing new, better ways of delivering cancer drugs, studies like this have the potential to improve cancer treatment and reduce side effects,” says McCarthy. “In particular, it could help improve treatment for brain tumors and other hard-to-treat cancers. The next steps will be to see if this method is safe to use in people, what its long- and short-term side effects are, and if it’s a better way to treat some cancers.”
The study was published earlier this month in the weekly peer-reviewed journal Angewandte Chemie (Applied Chemistry).