New Targeted Therapies for Mesothelioma
Every day scientists and doctors work together to develop new treatments and therapies for diseases that are difficult to treat. For several years now, researchers have been testing and developing the process for utilizing heat-activated tiny gold spheres, or nanotubes (and other nanoparticles), for the targeted treatment of hard-to-reach cancers like mesothelioma and lung cancer among others. This technique utilizes heat to excite gold nanoparticles in a targeted trojan-horse-like approach to killing cancer cells from the inside, causing minimal damage to healthy cells nearby.
This metal has many desirable traits that researchers have discovered and tested towards the improvement of medicine. Besides targeted cancer treatments, gold nanoparticles have properties that make it a good tool in early cancer screenings and high-resolution imaging tests. The main traits that highlight gold in the medical field include:
Since it’s a metal that easily conducts energy, gold has an intense reaction when exposed to light. When gold electrons are excited by light energy, they heat up. Doctors employ this trait for manipulating the gold nanoparticles in cancer treatment.
100x Smaller Than Other Cells
Another desirable gold trait in medicine is how easily its particles can move through the bloodstream to their target. Approximately one hundred times more compact than other cells, gold nanoparticles can freely flow through the bloodstream virtually undetected by the immune defense system.
Medical professionals test and adjust the shapes of nanoparticles to harness the metal’s resonance and ability to conduct and reflect infrared light. The size also is adjusted according to the location of the cancer site. Some shapes have encompassed gold nanorods, nanotubes, nanowires, and nanocages shaped like cubes. When the desired size of the nanoparticle is established, a gold mixture is injected onto the surface of the silver nanoparticle. The gold will pile up on the surface, dissolving the silver beneath it and forming a hollow space inside.
For the treatment of difficult to reach cancer cells (like mesothelioma), gold nanotubes are utilized because their shape allows them to be easily ingested by cancerous cells. By adjusting the length of the tubes, scientists can also fill them with anticancer medications, allowing for a dual-attack approach on cancerous cells.
Heating Up Cells
During treatment, gold nanotubes are injected into the mesothelioma tumor site and the cancer cells absorb them. When the doctor targets them with a laser beam, the nanotubes inside heat up and destroy surrounding cancer cells in a process known as phototherapy or photothermia.
The process of transferring medicine when heated with a laser is known as a photothermally triggered drug release. Before the medicine is released, gold nanotubes are stacked into cancerous cell membranes and filled with an anticancer medicine that’s activated and released with a laser beam. When nanotubes with anti-cancer medications are injected into the cancer site, the infrared light disrupts the vesicles and releases the drug, effectively shrinking or killing the cancer cells nearby.
Since nanoparticles are efficiently transferred to their malignant targets, side-effects and toxicity from the gold and anti-cancer medications are reduced as opposed to when injected directly, making nanoparticles an effective cancer attack tool that allows fewer side effects than other treatments. More factors that contribute to reduced adverse effects include the laser beam’s ability to pass through the body and heat up gold nanoparticles without damaging or burning nearby cells.
However, as with all treatments, this therapy carries some risks for complications. Even though chemotherapy medication issues are reduced when delivered through nanoparticles, some side-effects associated with chemotherapy include:
- Hair loss
If you experience any unmanageable side-effects, contact your doctor right away for the next steps. They may be able to prescribe medication or recommend methods to help manage any adverse reaction you may have.
The History of Gold in Treating Illness
Cancer is a worldwide health problem that researchers have been working endlessly to develop better ways to fight for hundreds of years. Over the past few decades, nanotechnology has been employed towards helping in the areas of medical imaging, diagnosis, and cancer therapy.
Before gold nanotechnology was considered, researchers applied gold in the development of medicine. In the middle ages, observers noticed the metal’s ability to change colors when molded to specific sizes and temperatures. Doctors then began to explore the curative properties of gold and combined it in medications to treat heart disease, tumors, dysentery, and epilepsy among others. The Empire Rheumatism Council sponsored a thirty-year clinical study demonstrating the effectiveness of injecting gold compounds in patients to help treat rheumatoid arthritis. Gold-containing drugs were then applied in the treatment of other rheumatic illnesses like juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, palindromic rheumatism, and discoid lupus erythematosus to name a few.
To be effective in treatment, gold compounds needed to be injected deep into the muscle tissue in a process known as an intramuscular injection. Doctors later discovered that continued use of the drugs through intramuscular injection began to cause harmful side effects on the patient’s body. Some included gold buildup in the kidneys that would cause nephrotoxicity. Other side effects included liver toxicity, mouth ulcers, and skin reactions. Oral administration of gold medications was proposed but lacked efficacy when tested. After the 80s, continued health issues lead to fewer gold-based drugs entering clinical study. This lead to an increase in medical exploration of gold-based technology in the detection and treatment of cancer instead, since it was shown that gold nanoparticles could be excreted from the body and less likely to cause issues with toxicity.
Over the next few decades, doctors began using clinical trials to develop and test gold-based nanotechnology that can target and treat cancer. In 2018, the University of Cambridge was awarded several million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to continue development and tests on nanotubes that could be activated with heat.
The University of Cambridge collaborated with the UK-based Leeds University, to create gold nanotubes with moldable physical properties that enhanced effectiveness. They harnessed the ability to intricately design thickness, microstructure, composition, and light absorption. After this discovery, it didn’t take long before researchers were using clinical trials to test these gold nanotubes with mesothelioma tumor cells and other hard to reach cancers. This therapy is still being modified and tested in clinical trials and research studies today.
What Are Clinical Trials and Studies?
Clinical trials are conducted by scientists and doctors to create and test out new medications, tools, and applications before administering to the public. Patients can volunteer or pay to participate in specific clinical studies and have access to new therapies that may not be available to everyone else yet. This can be helpful if a patient has undergone multiple cancer treatment methods unsuccessfully and wants to try something new. Your doctor is the best option for advising and directing towards appropriate clinical trials if you’re interested in this (or other) type of targeted therapy.