Special gold shows promise as effective treatment for prostate cancer

28 Aug 2019

Image: © Pierell/Stock.adobe.com

To create more effective treatments for prostate cancer, researchers have found that a special form of gold nanoparticles could be a game changer.

Prostate cancer remains the second most common form of cancer in men in Ireland, but new research from the US has ‘struck gold’ with a breakthrough now published to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers from Rice University, Duke University, the University of Michigan and the University of Texas wrote in their paper that biocompatible gold nanoparticles designed to convert near-infrared light to heat have been shown to effectively ablate low- to intermediate-grade tumours within the prostate.

Typically, removal of the prostate or whole-gland treatment carries a number of risks including urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. However, this treatment in early testing appears to show minimal side effects.

Developed by the study’s lead author Dr Ardeshir Rastinehad, the treatment uses gold-silica nanoshells (GSN) composed of a silica core and a gold shell with a diameter of 150 nanometres. Dubbed AuroShells, the nanoparticles are designed to absorb energy from near-infrared light and convert it to heat, resulting in selective hyperthermic cell death, without affecting nearby healthy tissue.

Animal testing showed the particles cleared through the liver – but remained sequestered in the spleen – reportedly with no known side effects. Following this success, 16 men aged between 58 and 79 with low- to intermediate-grade prostate cancer received an infusion of GSN and laser ablation.

After a number of MRI scans in the following months, up to a year after the procedure was done, 87.5pc of lesions treated were successfully treated.

“GSN infusion allows for a focused therapy that treats the cancer, while sparing the rest of the prostate, thus preserving a patient’s quality of life by reducing unwanted side effects, which could include erectile dysfunction and/or the leakage of urine,” said Rastinehad.

Further testing with a larger number of subjects is expected.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic