Popcorn-Shaped Gold Molecules May Help Physicians Destroy Prostate Cancer Cells

Experimental gold molecules shaped like popcorn can snare up to 50 prostate cancer cells around them, which are then destroyed by with applied heat.Prostate cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are often untargeted and can entail serious health risks. However, a new treatment method may sidestep some of these health consequences by using gold molecules to destroy cancer cells.

A description of the unique method appears in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Unlike many traditional chemotherapeutic treatments, which release toxic chemicals into the bloodstream, the new technique employs targeted molecules that bind directly to prostate cancer cells.

Each gold-based molecule is covered with peptide chains that facilitate binding to the cancerous cells. Without these chains, the molecules would be quite toxic. However, once injected into the blood, these golden compounds—which are shaped like popcorn—snare up to 50 cancer cells around them.

The researchers who developed the technique said that physicians may then expose these clusters to surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, which is a medical imaging process that allows doctors to see where the gold particles are.

The team concluded that when exposed to a particular kind of light, the molecules heat up and kill the cancer cells around them. The alternative therapy is still in the trial phase.

Prostate carcinomas are the most common cancer among American men, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).