Could copper help prevent cancer spread?

New research from Bielefeld University in Germany has copper playing a leading role in the fight against cancer.

A team of biochemists and physicists from the university has developed a molecule containing copper that binds with a patient's DNA as a way of stopping cancer cells spreading, the medical news website MNT reported on Tuesday.

In tests, the molecule killed cancer cells quicker than cisplatin, a widely-used chemotherapy drug that also kills cancerous cells by attacking their DNA, according to MNT. Cisplatin is effective against lung and testicular cancer but not against all cancers. Other drawbacks of the drug include its side effects and the fact that patients are becoming resistant to it considering it has been in use for over 30 years.

Lead researcher and inorganic chemistry professor Thorsten Glaser however cautioned that the research is in its early stages:

"How and whether the copper complex will actually be given to cancer patients is something that medical research will have to determine in the years to come," he told MNT.

While copper is not generally known for its medical properties, silver is. Credited as having antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiseptic properties, the white metal has been used to prevent and treat infections, to prevent food spoilage, and to stop water contamination. It has also been approved for use in medical devices, including breathing tubes, and is used to coat medical instruments to prevent the spread of infections.