British scientists believe that nanoparticles that include gold could help fight cancerous tumors.
The work by a team including Mark Welland of Cambridge University targeted gliobastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive form of brain tumor. One of the biggest challenges is that it creates a pattern of cancerous and healthy tissues mixed up to the point that most forms of treatment are too dangerous.
The idea behind the technique is take a nanosphere made of gold and chemotherapy drug cisplatin and put it directly into tumor cells. Gold is used because it is relatively easy to form into any size and shape, and is not harmful to humans.
The Independent explains that “When exposed to radiotherapy, the gold releases an electron which damages the DNA of the cancer cell, leaving it vulnerable to attack by the cancer drug.” It’s been described as a double-whammy of treatment.
Initial testing involved cancerous cells taken from a patient with a tumor that had proved resistant to treatment. 20 days after the nanosphere treatment, the cells — stored and monitored in a lab — had shown no signs of regrowth.
In a press release, Professor Welland said:
The combined therapy that we have devised appears to be incredibly effective in the live cell culture. This is not a cure, but it does demonstrate what nanotechnology can achieve in fighting these aggressive cancers. By combining this strategy with cancer cell-targeting materials, we should be able to develop a therapy for glioblastoma and other challenging cancers in the future.