Gold Nanoparticles Kill Brain Cancer Cells

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According to new findings published in Nanoscale, researchers have developed a new method to kill brain cancer cells using nanoparticles of gold.

The nanoparticles, which contained both gold and cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat a variety of cancers, were released into cancer cells that had been removed from patients with glioblastoma multiforme and allowed to proliferate in vitro. After 20 days, all of the cancer cells had been destroyed.


In the study, researchers using radiation excited gold nanoparticles wrapped in polyethylenimine, a positively charged polymer, and suffused with cisplatin. When exposed to the radiation, low energy Auger electrons attacked the cancer cell DNA causing apoptosis. Because these electrons are low energy, they only cause damage to cells within a short range, thereby sparing normal cells. The combination of gold and cisplatin accounts for cells that may be more resistant to one type of treatment than another.


Glioblastoma multiforme, though rare, is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in adults. Limited treatment options are available to treat the disease and many die within months of diagnosis. Glioblastoma is especially resistant to treatment because it makes surgical resection difficult and can quickly become resistant to chemotherapy despite an initial response.

Gold Nanoparticles Kill Brain Cancer Cells
A “Trojan horse” treatment for brain cancer has been successfully tested by scientists.

A “Trojan horse” treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer, which involves using tiny nanoparticles of gold to kill tumour 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 tumour 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 tumour cells that had been taken from glioblastoma patients and grown in the lab.


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