A Gold Standard in Chemotherapy

Injected alone, anti-cancer drugs can take days to gather and attack a tumor, but Case Western Reserve University chemist Clemens Burda, PhD, reported this spring that preliminary tests show hitching gold nanoparticles to the drugs delivers faster, more effective treatment.

Burda, the senior author of the paper, published in the March online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, says the gold nanoparticles are coated with polyethylene glycol, which links tightly to the particles and provides cargo space to attach other materials. The coated gold prevents premature activation of the therapy drug, warding off unintended toxic exposure to healthy tissue. The lipid membrane of cancer cells attracts the drug, and laser light switches it on.

Speeding anti-cancer drugs directly into tumors enables patients to receive lower doses of the toxic chemicals, thereby saving healthy tissue from damage and other harsh side effects suffered in traditional chemotherapy.

"We hope to lower the dosage by at least a factor of 10," Burda says. After delivering the drug, the nanoparticles clear the body within a week.

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