Gold nanoparticles embedded in resin microcapsules may increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy), acting in situ from inside tumors. In this way, according to an international team of researchers, these nanoparticles could reduce the usual side effects of chemotherapy in healthy tissues.
The study, published in Angewandte Chemie, demonstrates the ability of gold nanoparticles to generate potent anticancer drugs from inert molecules in situ, through a mechanism of elimination of terminal chemical groups that nanometric gold is capable of catalyzing. Gold is ideal for this catalytic role because of its high biocompatibility.
These findings offer new hope in the fight against cancer, obtained thanks to the collaboration of scientists from the Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon (INA) at the University of Zaragoza, Víctor Sebastián, Silvia Irusta and Jesús Santamaría, with researchers from the Center Cancer Research at the University of Edinburgh, led by Dr. Asier Unciti-Broceta.
The work reveals in first place the possibility of carrying out catalysis in biological media using tiny gold particles. These gold nanoparticles, camouflaged in a microcapsule resin and implanted in the brain of zebrafish, have achieved catalyze a chemical reaction generating fluorescent compounds.
An important practicality
“The main problem with chemotherapy treatments is their side effects in various organs due to the toxicity of molecules used to fight cancer. Therefore, from nanotechnology alternative routes are studied; for example, transporting drugs into the tumor using nanoparticles or alternative treatments to drugs, such as hyperthermia, elevating local temperature, obtained with nanoparticles,” said INA Subdirector Jesus Santamaria.
The conclusions of this paper raise a different way: the drug would be introduced to the patient in an inert form and converted to its toxic in situ form through nanoparticles catalysis that a surgeon would implant in the tumor.
“We have discovered new properties of gold that had not been explored so far; and the study shows that the metal could be used to deliver drugs within tumors very safely. Much remains to be done before it can be used in patients, but it is an important step forward,” concludes Unciti-Broceta.