Fighting Cancer With Gold
Not many people realize that gold has been used in the treatment of cancer in various forms for many years. One particular area that is very popular is in the detection and treatment of prostate cancer. Currently surgeons are using tiny rice sized grains of gold to more accurately locate the prostate and help them apply the radiation treatments far more precisely. Doctors use the grains of gold because they are dense enough to show up exceptionally well in the x-rays that are used to determine not only where the prostate is, but where the tumors are located. Gold is used for more than just for locating tumors; while platinum has been used in drugs such as Cisplatin in the treatment of cancer, recent research has turned towards the use of gold in new compounds that show promise as potential cancer treatments.
Research performed at the National University of Singapore has led to the development of several new medications that show promise in the treatment of cancer. In particular they are finding that gold particles will actually collect in the tissues of a cancerous tumor when injected into the bloodstream. By attaching a strong anti-cancer compound onto a nanoparticle of gold, they are finding it possible to deliver a highly potent dose of medication directly to the targeted tumor. This means that the healthy tissues have a much lower incidence of toxicity and being damaged by the drugs that are intended to destroy the cancerous tumor. This reduction in toxicity and collateral damage is considered to be a major step in the right direction by the medical community who has long been looking for a way to treat many different tumors in areas of the body that do not hold up well to collateral damage from standard chemotherapy.
In a related study that is still taking place in the U.S., a process known as Aurolase TM is being tested. Instead of relying on a solid gold grain, this variant involves the use of a gold plated silica grain. The reason for this is that once the nanoparticles have accumulated within the cancerous tumor, doctors use a near-infrared laser to heat up the silica and the heat that is generated rapidly destroys the tumor. While test results have been very successful and show great promise for the future, the process is awaiting FDA final approval. The gold standard for cancer treatment, both now and in the future may well be heavily dependent on the use of pure gold or one of many compounds made using gold, making this metal more precious than ever.