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Gold could be used in cancer treatment, researchers say

Photo by Erin Williamson, Flickr.

A team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Zaragoza found that a tiny medical device containing gold specks could boost the effects of lung cancer medication and reduce its harm.

The group, led by Dr. Asier Unciti-Broceta from the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, worked on encasing gold nanoparticles in a chemical device to control their highly-specific reactions in exact locations.

Those nanoparticles activated anti-cancer medicines that had been applied to lung cancer cells in a dish, increasing the drugs’ effectiveness.

The small fragments in the device also catalysed a directed chemical reaction when implanted in the brain of zebrafish, so the researchers are hopeful the technique could be used to develop human treatments.

These findings were published in the journal Angewandte Chemie. In their study, the experts state that gold is a safe chemical element that has the ability to accelerate – or catalyse – chemical reactions, which means that it could be used to target diseased cells without damaging healthy tissue. Current chemotherapy treatments have serious side effects for patients.

“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 tumours and reduce harmful effects to healthy organs,” Unciti-Broceta said in a press release.