Scientists from Edinburgh University have found that gold could be used to tackle certain cancers.
The team found that gold nanoparticles greatly increased the effectiveness of of drugs used to treat lung cancer.
Gold is a safe element which means that it can accelerate or catalyse chemical reactions.
The delivery process works by creating minute gold particles known as nanoparticles and then encasing them in a chemical.
While the research was initially carried out on Zebrafish the team are confident that the technique will also be just as effective on humans.
By using gold nanoparticles the team believe they can create a chemotherapy treatment that not only targets the cancer cells more effectively but also drastically reduces harmful side-effects that come with it.
Dr Aine McCarthy, a senior science information officer from Cancer Research UK said: “By developing new, better ways of delivering cancer drugs, studies like this have the potential to improve cancer treatment and reduce side effects.
“In particular, it could help improve treatment for brain tumours and other hard-to-treat cancers. The next steps will be to see if this method is safe to use in people, what its long and short-term side effects are, and if it’s a better way to treat some cancers.”
The research was a collaboration with the University of Zaragoza’s Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon in Spain, with funding coming from Cancer Research UK (CRUK).
Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta, from Cancer Research UK’s Edinburgh centre is hopeful but cautious about their findings.
“We have discovered new properties of gold that were previously unknown and our findings suggest that the metal could be used to release drugs inside tumours very safely.” she said.
“There is still work to do before we can use this on patients, but this study is a step forward. We hope that a similar device in humans could one day be implanted by surgeons to activate chemotherapy directly in tumours and reduce harmful effects to healthy organs.”