Brain cancer therapy boosted by gold


According to research which has been published in Nanoscale, minute pieces of gold may aid in the improvement of treatment for aggressive brain cancers.

Scientists engineered miniscule golden spheres and coated them with a chemotherapy drug. Once the small particles impregnated the tumour cells, the replication of the cancer terminated and many of the cells with the disease died.

Researchers are hoping that this may offer a method of targeting those cancers which are difficult to treat.

More than 4000 adults are affected by a common form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, in the UK annually. There are treatments available, but they are not very effective. Most people who suffer these tumours die within five years after first being diagnosed.

Researchers created particles four million times smaller than a human hair cross-section, called nanospheres. At its core they placed tiny gold pieces, surrounded by a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin.

During trials done on human cancer samples, the spheres seemed to boost the overall effectiveness of traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy which improved the chances of all the affected cells being killed. The samples used during tests were taken from brain-tumour samples which were extracted during surgical procedures.

The cancerous cells were given a radiotherapy dosage, similar to current available treatment options.

Not only did the radiotherapy attack the tumour cells, it also agitated the electrons present in the golden core. This agitation boosted the breakdown of genetic material in the cancer. It also led to the release of the chemotherapy surrounding it, which allowed the cisplatin to work on the weakened tumour.

After 20 days had passed, it appeared that no applicable cancer cells were left in the treated samples.

St John’s College, Cambridge’s Professor Sir Mark Welland, who participated in the methods, said that it created a double-whammy effect. He said that by using a combination of this strategy with cancer cell-targeting options, they should have the opportunity to develop treatment for glioblastoma and other cancers at some point in the future.

A neurosurgeon, who was involved with this study, Dr Collin Watts, said it was necessary to have more than a single treatment to attack cancer cells at the same time. He added that this was important because some of the cancers are more treatment-resistant than others.

Although the results appear to be promising, it is still in the early stages of research and requires more tests to be done before it can be considered as a standard treatment option.

Researchers are hoping to commence human trials during 2016 and are currently working on early experiments involving other tumour types.

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