A “Trojan horse” treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer, which involves using tiny nanoparticles of gold to kill tumour cells, has been successfully tested by scientists. The ground-breaking technique could eventually be used to treat glioblastoma multiforme, which is the most common and aggressive brain tumour in adults, and notoriously difficult to treat. Many sufferers die within a few months of diagnosis, and just six in every 100 patients with the condition are alive after five years.
The research involved engineering nanostructures containing both gold and cisplatin, a conventional chemotherapy drug. These were released into tumour cells that had been taken from glioblastoma patients and grown in the lab. Once inside, these “nanospheres” were exposed to radiotherapy. This caused the gold to release electrons which damaged the cancer cell’s DNA and its overall structure, thereby enhancing the impact of the chemotherapy drug. The process was so effective that 20 days later, the cell culture showed no evidence of any revival, suggesting that the tumour cells had been destroyed. While further work needs to be done before the same technology can be used to treat people with glioblastoma, the results offer a highly promising foundation for future therapies.
Importantly, the research was carried out on cell lines derived directly from glioblastoma patients, enabling the team to test the approach on evolving, drug-resistant tumours.
The study was led by Mark Welland, Professor of Nanotechnology at the Department of Engineering and a Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, and Dr Colin Watts, a clinician scientist and honorary consultant neurosurgeon at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences. Their work is reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Nanoscale.
“We need to be able to hit the cancer cells directly with more than one treatment at the same time” Dr Watts said. “This is important because some cancer cells are more resistant to one type of treatment than another. Nanotechnology provides the opportunity to give the cancer cells this ‘double whammy’ and open up new treatment options in the future.” – See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/trojan-horse-treatment-could-beat-brain-tumours