Gold Treats Cancer Better Than Chemo

By Amir Khan on July 17, 2012 11:14 AM EDT

Gold
A new cancer therapy may be worth its weight in gold -- literally (Photo: Creative Commons)

A new cancer therapy may be worth its weight in gold -- literally. Researchers found that gold nanoparticles, using in conjunction with a compound found in tea leaves, may treat cancer better than chemotherapy, according to a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While chemotherapy is effective, the chemicals also spread to other parts of the body and can damage vital organs. Researchers said that the new gold/tea treatment requires doses that are thousands of times smaller than needed for chemotherapy. In addition, the compounds target the tumor directly and cause no harm to any other parts of the body.

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"These types of chemicals in tea have the properties capable of converting gold salt into nanoparticles," Kattesh Katti, study coauthor and senior research scientist at the MU Research Reactor, told Fox News. "They are found in all teas - green tea, black tea, etc. These chemicals have an affinity to the chemicals that are in the prostate cancer cells. So they take these nanoparticles and keep them within the tumor for as long as it takes to eliminate the tumor. We were able to reduce the tumor size by 70 to 80 percent."

In order to make the gold nanoparticles deadly against tumors, the gold was given radioactive properties, researchers said.

"It's actually a fairly simple process," Cathy Cutler, study coauthor and research professor at the MU Research Reactor, told Fox News. "We take just natural gold, and we more or less eradiate it in the research reactor. We then take that gold and react that with components from the tea and make nanoparticles."

Gold has a half-life of 2.7 days, which means it takes almost 3 days for the gold to decay by half. This allows the nanoparticles to stay effective for up to three weeks.

Researchers tested the nanoparticles in mice with human prostate cancer cells and found that the nanoparticles were delivered straight to the tumor.

"I use a simple example," Katti said. "Imagine a limousine - the EGCG is the limo and the nanoparticles of gold are the passengers. The passengers board the limo, the limo takes them to the tumor, they see the horror of the tumor and start to fight it."

The next step is to test the process on a larger animal, such as a dog, researchers said, and hope human trials will come within the next five years.

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