Radiated gold nanoparticles target cancer cell division

Oxford researchers have developed a cancer-killing combo from gold nanoparticles harboring a dose of radiation. The compound burrows into cancer cells to attack their division mechanisms, leading to cell death.

The team from the Cancer Research UK/Medical Research Council Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology initially used radiation as a tracer to monitor the particles’ infiltration of the cell. They found that the gold reached the desired target in the cell to shut down telomerase, which is a molecule on the tips of chromosomes that allows the cell to divide but breaks down over time. In cancer cells, that breakdown is obstructed, enabling the cells to proliferate freely.

The gold nanoparticles, easily absorbed by cells, reached these telomeres to deactivate the telomerase molecule in skin cancer cells, halting the cancer’s growth. And loaded with a stronger radiation dose, the particles could give even resistant cancer cells a fatal blow.

“Gold has been used in medicine for many years and this research adds further insight into its potential,” CRUK CEO Harpal Kumar said. “Ensuring that treatment is accurately targeted at cancer and avoids healthy cells is the goal for much of cancer research, and this is an exciting step towards that.”