Cancer treatments traditionally employ a variety of methods and it is the hope of medical professionals that the chosen treatment will result in remission for the cancer stricken patient. All the advances made in cancer cell research have been put to the test to ensure the best possible result, but certain cancers pose more of a challenge than others. The aggressiveness of a cancer can infiltrate healthy cells and form growths that make tumor removal virtually impossible. However, scientists have come across a new Trojan method of treatment that could prove effective in destroying the cells of the most challenging cancers. The key is found in gold.
Scientists at Cambridge University are calling it the “Trojan horse” treatment, as the new method uses gold to infiltrate a cancerous area and forge an attack on tumor cells. The decision to use gold for this treatment came from evidence that gold will not pose a threat to patients. It is a benign material that can be manipulated with accuracy by scientists.
So far the method has been used on human samples of brain cancer. The scientists created golden nanospheres millions of times smaller than the width of a human hair, and coated those particles of gold in cisplatin. Cisplatin is a drug commonly used in chemotherapy treatments. The nanospheres are small enough to enter cells, allowing them to go directly to the tumor cells while they carry the drug.
In testing, after the gold had been administered to a tumor, cancer cells were given a dose of radiotherapy. The radiotherapy attacked the cancer cells but also stimulated the electrons in the gold. The stimulation, in turn, broke down the DNA in the cancer cells. As a result, the tumor was weakened and the cisplatin could take a stronger effect.
The emissions of the gold particles are localized to the cancer cells and do not cause any serious damage to healthy cells. This is a great feat for scientists who have found the protection of healthy cells to be difficult when trying to remove or treat tumors. Although chemotherapy has helped, it is sometimes found that the effects are temporary and do not destroy the cancer cells in the same way that the Trojan horse treatment does.
Researchers believe that this method could eventually be used to treat different cancers. One of the most common and challenging cancers is glioblastoma multiforme, which was used to test the Trojan horse treatment. The cancer has often given its victims only a few months to live, and is so difficult to treat that only six percent of patients live past five years. The use of gold to administer drugs has thusly provided a hopeful solution to the cancer problem.
Research is still in its early stages, and more must be done to make the treatment effective, feasible and safe. The hope is that by 2016, the research team will be able to conduct human trials. The Trojan horse treatment does show promise in destroying cancer cells, but it cannot be said for certain that it is a cure. In the future, the plan is to combine the new method with other cancer cell targeting materials, in an effort to create the most effective form of treatment for patients. Perhaps, this could eventually change the grim statistics that conditions like glioblastoma multiforme have had so far.
By Kamille Dawkins