Mar 27, 2009

Gold used for cancer treatment

Commodity Online

NEW DELHI: Gold to kill cancer cells! Yes, that is what is researchers have found out.

In a new development, researchers in the US have developed the first hollow gold nanospheres which can search out and kill cancer cells.

According to a report presented at American Chemical Society’s meeting, the researchers said the cancer-destroying nanospheres show particular promise as a minimally invasive future treatment for malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

Hollow gold nanospheres are equipped with a special peptide. That protein fragment draws the nanospheres directly to melanoma cells, while avoiding healthy skin cells. After collecting inside the cancer, the nanospheres heat up when exposed to near-infrared light, which penetrates deeply through the surface of the skin. In recent studies in mice, the hollow gold nanospheres did eight times more damage to skin tumors than the same nanospheres without the targeting peptides.

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It’s like putting a cancer cell in hot water and boiling it to death. The more heat the metal nanospheres generate, the better.

This form of cancer therapy is actually a variation of photothermal ablation, also known as photoablation therapy (PAT), a technique in which doctors use light to burn tumours. Since the technique can destroy healthy skin cells, doctors must carefully control the duration and intensity of treatment.

Researchers now know that PATs can be greatly enhanced by applying a light absorbing material, such as metal nanoparticles, to the tumor. Although researchers have developed various types of metal nanoparticles to help improve this technique, many materials show poor penetration into cancer cells and limited heat carrying-capacities. These particles include solid gold nanoparticles and nanorods that lack the desired combination of spherical shape and strong near-infrared light absorption for effective PAT.

Gold spheres with an optimal light absorption capacity in the near-infrared region, small size, and spherical shape are perfect for penetrating cancer cells and burning them up.

The shells are also much smaller than other nanoparticles previously designed for photoablation therapy. Another advantages is that gold is also safer and has fewer side effects in the body than other metal nanoparticles.

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