Golden bullet' may be cancer hunter and killer
By David Derbyshire
June 22, 2007 01:00am
A "GOLDEN bullet" treatment for cancer which tracks down tumours before wiping them out with a blast of heat is to be tested on patients within weeks, it was revealed yesterday.
The "seek and destroy" technique uses an injection of microscopic glass spheres, coated in gold, which seek out potentially deadly cancers in the body. Once enough spheres have flocked to the tumour, doctors "activate" them using a low energy beam of light.
In tests, tumours have been totally destroyed. Unlike conventional cancer treatments, the golden bullet approach uses no toxic chemicals and no radiation, reducing the risk of unpleasant side effects.
It could also be far cheaper than existing treatments. Cancer scientists have predicted that it could help tackle a range of potentially deadly diseases, from skin cancers to cancers of the cervix, breast, brain and neck.
Tests on mice found that the treatment worked exceptionally well, New Scientist magazine reported yesterday. When it was tried on nine mice with colon cancer, the tumours were
Rice University (Texas) professor Jennifer West, who helped develop the
treatment, said clinical trials on cancer patients were expected to begin in
the US within weeks.
The first phase will find out whether the treatment successfully kills off tumours.A second stage, due to start in a couple of years, will test the particles'ability to identify tumours.
"From the work we have done so far, we believe that this therapy will work on any soft-tissue tumours, such as the breast, prostate, brain, skin, head, neck and cervix," Professor West said.
Cancer Council Queensland director of community services and research programs Associate Professor Suzanne Steginga said the emergence of nanotechnology as a potential area for cancer treatment emphasised the critical importance of research.
"The question, of course, will be how this work transfers from animal to human models, and this will take some years to answer," she said. "We wait with great interest for the outcomes of these trials."
The golden bullet treatment is not the first to use "nanoparticles". Past studies have shown that microscopic capsules injected into the bloodstream can deliver drugs directly to tumours.