Tiny gold particles shown to kill deadly brain cancer in new study

NEW DELHI (TIP): Scientists at the University of Cambridge have been successful in treating a deadly and common type of brain cancer using tiny gold particles. The ground-breaking technique could eventually be used to treat glioblastomamultiforme (GBM), which is the most common and aggressive brain tumor in adults, and notoriously difficult to treat.

Many sufferers die within a few months of diagnosis, and just six in every 100 patients with the condition are alive after five years, a University statement said. “The combined therapy that we have devised appears to be incredibly effective in the live cell culture,” said Professor Welland, professor of nanotechnology at the University of Cambridge, who led the research.

“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.”” The research involved building nanoparticles of gold with a conventional chemotherapy drug cisplatin attached.

These were released into tumor cells that had been taken from glioblastoma patients and grown in the lab. Once the gold nanoparticles entered the cancer cells they were exposed to radiotherapy. This caused the gold to release electrons which damaged the cancer cell’s DNA and its overall structure, thereby enhancing the impact of the chemotherapy drug. The process was so effective that 20 days later, the cell culture showed no evidence of any revival, suggesting that the tumor cells had been destroyed, the University statement said. While further work needs to be done before the same technology can be used to treat people with glioblastoma, the results offer a highly promising foundation for future therapies.

Importantly, the research was carried out on cell lines derived directly from glioblastoma patients, enabling the team to test the approach on evolving, drug-resistant tumors. Their work is reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Nanoscale. “We need to be able to hit the cancer cells directly with more than one treatment at the same time,” Dr Colin Watts consultant neurosurgeon at the university said. “This is important because some cancer cells are more resistant to one type of treatment than another.

Nanotechnology provides the opportunity to give the cancer cells this ‘double whammy’ and open up new treatment options in the future.” The researchers believe that similar models could eventually be used to treat other types of challenging cancers. First, however, the method itself needs to be turned into an applicable treatment for GBM patients. This process, which will be the focus of much of the group’s forthcoming research, will necessarily involve extensive trials.

Sonali Setua, a PhD student who worked on the project, said: “It was hugely satisfying to chase such a challenging goal and to be able to target and destroy these aggressive cancer cells. This finding has enormous potential to be tested in a clinical trial in the near future and developed into a novel treatment to overcome therapeutic resistance of glioblastoma.”

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