August 14, 2014
‘Trojan Horse’ Treatment Could Beat Brain Tumors
A "Trojan horse" treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer, which involves using tiny nanoparticles of gold to kill tumor 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 tumor 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 tumor 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 tumor 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 tumors.
The study was led by Mark Welland, Professor of Nanotechnology 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.