Golden touch? Scientists use precious metal to destroy tumours

Brain cancer cells destroyed by nanotechnology

Health Correspondent

Scientists have destroyed brain tumour cells by combining nanotechnology with existing cancer drugs, in a pioneering technique which could one day lead to treatment for some of the most aggressive forms of cancer.

The technique, dubbed “Trojan horse” by the Cambridge scientists who devised it, delivers nanoparticles which are a mix of gold and cisplatin – a common chemotherapy drug - into the cells of cancer tumours. 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.

Researchers said that the process had been so successful that cell cultures used in the lab showed no signs of regrowth after 20 days – suggesting that the tumour cells had been destroyed. 

So far it has only been used on cells grown in the lab from patients with glioblastoma multiforme – the commonest and most aggressive form of brain tumour. In this form of tumour, cancer cells become enmeshed with healthy cells, making surgery near impossible. However, the limited range of the electron released by gold in response to radiotherapy would in theory limit the damage to healthy cells nearby.

Gold was used because it is a safe material which can be easily manipulated into the size and shape of particle required. The study was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Nanoscale.

Mark Welland, professor of nanotechnology and fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, said that by combining the technique with materials that target cancer cells in the body, his team “should be able to develop a therapy for glioblastoma and other challenging cancers in the future”.

He told The Independent: “I think that medicine is going to be the area that we look back on in 10 years’ time and say: nano had a huge impact. We already have other projects using different nanoparticles to target other human diseases at the cellular level, including tuberculosis and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.” 

Nanotechnology would also have a major impact in the area of health diagnostics, he predicted, enabling instant analysis of blood, saliva and urine in devices which could be used by the patient themselves to monitor their condition.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'