Cancer patients can wear gold

Researchers break cancer's legs with gold

"Unfortunately, your cancer has metastasized ..." If a primary tumor forms daughter colonies throughout the body, the prognosis for patients is drastically darkened. In order to combat the fatal “wanderlust” of cancer cells, researchers have now developed a sophisticated method: They break the “legs” of the malignant cells using gold, which develops heat when exposed to radiation. The researchers hope that this could lead to a new, gentle form of therapy.

In most cases it is the metastases that lead to death: the worst property of tumors is that they can form daughter colonies in vital organs. The often increased mobility of cancer cells is responsible for this. The natural ability of many body cells to move is mutated in these degenerate versions: They form a particularly large number of leg-like appendages with which they can move through the body in order to cause growths in many places. It is precisely these “legs” that researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta are targeting.

With gold against the fatal wanderlust

Their concept is based on fine gold rods in the nanometer range that can be injected into tumor tissue. They are coated with a peptide that makes them "sticky" to a certain protein that is involved in the excessive formation of the legs, especially in cancer cells. As a result, the gold rods attach themselves to the processes of the malignant cells and block this protein. This already prevents the formation of legs and limits the ability of the cancer cells to migrate, the researchers report. But the real blow is yet to come.

After the injection with the gold rods, the cancer-affected tissue is irradiated with weak laser light in the infrared range. Healthy cells hardly absorb it and are therefore not damaged. The cancer cells fare differently, because the gold sticks stick to them and especially to their legs. They absorb the radiation and convert it into heat. The result: the locomotion processes are destroyed and even the entire cancer cell can die.

Hope for cancer treatment

So much for the theoretical concept. The researchers have already proven that it can work through laboratory tests on cultures of human cancer cells. In addition, animal experiments have also produced encouraging results. As the researchers report, there are signs that the procedure could curb the spread of cancer in a gentle way.

You currently see potential for the treatment of cancer of the head, neck and chest as well as skin cancer. In these cases, the gold nanorods can be injected two to three centimeters deep into the tissue and then treated with the near-infrared laser. But other types of cancer could theoretically also be reached by injecting specifically into the affected tissue. "You'd have to put the laser through a fiber optic or endoscopic device," said co-author El-Sayed of the Georgia Institute of Technology. So it will be interesting to see what will develop from this golden method.

Original work by the researchers:

© - Martin Vieweg
June 26, 2017