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Gold as Cancer Treatment

It turns out gold might be more versatile than we thought. And we already figured it was pretty flexible, given that we see something new and weird made of gold at least bi-weekly, and homeboy over here just decided to start making shirts out of it. But aside from motorcycles, smart phones, Madonna’s grills and jewelry/watches, gold is ready to make big moves into a new field: the fight against cancer.

UK Scientists have developed a new, super targeted treatment for Glioblastoma multiform, a relatively common brain cancer that affects roughly 4,000 UK adults annually. Scientist first developed tiny gold nanospheres, so small that they’re about 4 million times smaller than a single human hair. The nano spheres were then coated in a chemotherapy drug cisplatin, before being injected into brain tumor samples.

Once the gold nanospheres had infiltrated the tumors, each sample was given a dose of radiation, the current conventional treatment for this type of cancer. Researchers found that the radiation effectively damaged the cancer cells, but was boosted by the gold nanospheres. The radiation “excited” the electrons in reactive gold cores, which began to break down the cancer’s DNA. Simultaneously, the gold cores agitated the chemotherapy drug, real easing particles into the now-weakened cancer cells.

The results of the one-two-three punch? Twenty days later, the treated samples were cancer free, with no trace of cancer cells observed.

Professor Sir Mark Welland. St. John’s College, Cambridge, told BBC News:

“… By combining this strategy with cancer cell-targeting materials, we should be able to develop therapy for glioblastoma and other challenging cancers in the future.”

Another researcher on the project, Dr. Collin Watts, said  “We need to be able to hit cancer cells directly with more than one treatment at the same time. This is important because some cancers are more resistant to one type of treatment than another.”

Because each type of cancer, and each incidence of cancer is unique, myriad treatment options are the best way to give the best odds of fighting the disease. The research team expects to test the gold nanosphere particle treatment on other types of tumors, and hopes to begin human trials in 2016.

So why gold? It’s a popular choice for medical treatments given its biocompatibility and unique elemental properties. It’s been used in medicine (particularly in dentistry) for centuries, and isn’t limited to this kind of cancer treatment. A researcher at University of Central Florida is designing a prostate cancer detection test that would have gold particles bind to cancer cells to more easily identify and treat prostate cancer.

Gold is also used for the extended treatment of HIV/Aids patients and to detect Malaria. Far from being just another gorgeous metal, gold holds is own weight in medicine, not just Troy Ounces.

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