Gold Nanoparticles May Hold Key To Safer Forms of Chemotherapy
November 4th, 2013 by Holly Cornish
Most folks know that chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells AND healthy cells.
Because these drugs don’t discriminate, cancer patients frequently experience hair loss… foggy thinking… nausea and vomiting… and other problems caused when chemo drugs zap health cells.
Now, new research may point to the precious metal GOLD as an effective way to scrub cancer cells from your body! It all involves continued research and improvements to treatments known as metallodrugs. Let me explain…
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Drugs that contain metals have been used since the 1970s to treat some types of cancer. Most commonly this involves platinum compounds such as cisplatin and its derivatives.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cisplatin (brand name Platinol®) is appropriate to treat various cancers including:
- Head and neck
Cisplatin binds to DNA and interferes with the cell division process. The damaged DNA signals DNA repair mechanisms to swing into action, which in turn activate apoptosis—the process that causes cancer cells to self-destruct.
But because it’s not very selective, cisplatin can also stunt the growth of normal body cells too.
This causes many of the same side effects seen with other chemotherapy drugs, and in some cases can lead to kidney problems and hearing loss.
Now there’s a chance that new research has uncovered a more effective method for using metals to clobber cancer. According to a Brooklyn College statement, Dr. Maria Contél, associate professor of chemistry, recently received a $1.4 million NIH grant to continue researching a gold-titanium combination that could be used to fight renal and prostate cancer.
The researchers previously received a $467,860 three-year grant from NIH to create an alternative cancer therapy that is less toxic than platinum-based compounds.
“It means the NIH appreciated our productivity under the first grant and warmed up to the idea of studying organometallic compounds as potential chemotherapeutics. It is perhaps changing minds at the NIH,” Dr. Contel said.
So how would the new combo
metal treatment work?
Combination therapeutics includes administering two or more drugs in order to reach different targets.
Doctors could inject a medication consisting of one metal to target cell nuclei and another to damage the cell powerhouse, the mitochondria. The aim would be to hinder cells from activating repair mechanisms that allow cancer cells to continue duplicating.
Dr. Contel said that for the new grant, her team produced “preliminary results on a gold/titanium treatment that inhibited certain mechanisms of prostate and kidney cancer in a way different to cisplatin while killing the cancer cells.”
In essence, the gold-titanium combination would be used to target and destroy different parts of cancer cells while leaving other cells unharmed.
But Contel warns that it’s no small feat to go from researching this type of treatment to developing a successful commercial drug.
“If you’re amazingly lucky, you may see one of your findings enter the market. Only 5 of 5,000 compounds evaluated in preclinical studies will get the approval of the FDA. The whole process to develop a new drug takes an average of 10 to 15 years,” Contel said.
Other groups join the ‘gold rush’
for cancer cures!
In addition to Dr. Contel’s research into combining metal therapies, other groups are researching the use of gold nanoparticles as a promising cancer treatment.
Cytimmune Sciences of Rockville, MD recently published preliminary results of a phase 1 clinical trial of a targeted chemotherapy treatment called Aurimuneis.
Their treatment attaches a molecule of the tumor-killing agent called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) to gold nanoparticles.
The researchers also bind a molecule of Thiol-derivatized polyethylene glycol (PEG-THIOL) to hide the TNF nanoparticle from the immune system. The gold nanoparticles are able to travel through the patient’s bloodstream without the gatekeepers of the immune system kicking them out. This ensures that the tumor-killing substance will be delivered to the disease site.
A Cytimmune statement said the Phase 1 clinical trial data indicate that Aurimuneis “preferentially delivered to the site of disease with minimal accumulation in healthy tissue.”
A team of University of Arizona researchers has developed another targeted therapy for delivering cancer drugs inside gold-coated liposomes.
The invention was spearheaded by Dr Marek Romanowski, an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the University of Arizona (UA) College of Engineering in Tucson.
Dr. Romanowski worked with graduate students Xenia Kachur and Sarah Leung to develop a method for gold-coated liposomes to deliver cancer drugs in controlled doses without harming healthy body cells.
Liposomes are tiny capsules used to transport materials inside cells. In chemotherapy treatment, they enclose the cancer drug in a skin made of fats already present in human cells.
This covering prevents the patient’s immune system from launching an attack before the chemo drugs are delivered to the cancer site.
Only after the liposomes enter openings in the cancer tumors do they break down, releasing the drug that kills the cancer cells. The researchers experimented with using infrared light to control the amount of drugs that are released at one time.
All of these efforts are designed to improve cancer drug delivery and lessen the harmful effects of chemotherapy on healthy tissue.
Of course, you might want to consider alternative cancer treatments that don’t subject any part of your body to harsh synthetic drugs. But it is good to know that scientists continue their quest for less invasive and abrasive treatment regiments!
Meanwhile. . .on another topic. . .maybe you didn’t know that diabetes and cancer are closely connected. High blood sugar puts you at higher risk of cancer. I wrote about this in the last issue, but if you missed it you can scroll down and read it now.
The Hidden Cause of Cancer
Most People Ignore
Today I’m going to talk about two diseases that may seem to be a world apart. Yet numerous studies suggest the two are often linked. It’s not completely clear why, but people with a common, preventable health condition are FAR more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.
And the risk is most threatening of all with one of the most dreaded types of cancer – pancreatic cancer. Although it extends to many kinds of cancer.
Read on to find out more…
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The evidence is now more compelling than ever that diabetes and cancer are closely related… much like two troublemaking siblings with no parents around to keep an eye on them.
This means that a great deal of cancer is preventable. It doesn’t just happen by chance. It doesn’t drop from a clear blue sky. You can prevent diabetes (and reverse it, if you already have it).
We’ve known for a long time that diabetes is linked to vascular (i.e. circulatory) complications. Think heart attack, stroke, blindness, gangrene and limb loss, kidney disease, and sexual dysfunctioni.
Probably this list won’t surprise you—given how many people have diabetes these days.
But now there’s an established linked between diabetes and non-vascular complications, like cancer, which doesn’t have much to do with your blood vessels. If you have diabetes, you’re not only more likely to get cancer… you’re also more likely to die from cancer.
According to Pankaj Shah, M.D. at the Mayo Clinic, “Evidence suggests that these 2 common conditions coexist more often than would be expected to occur by chance.”
That’s an understatement…
400% more pancreatic cancer,
300% more blood cancer…
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 16 percent of diabetic men and 17 percent of diabetic women get cancer, versus just 7 and 10 percent respectively, in the overall population. That means for men, diabetes is associated with more than double the risk of cancer. For women, the cancer risk increase is about 70 percent.
Dr. Chaoyang Li from the CDC said that even after accounting for external factors like age, race, and smoking and drinking habits, diabetics are far more likely to get colon, pancreatic, rectum, urinary bladder, kidney, breast and prostate cancers than their non-diabetic counterparts.
The strength of the cancer-diabetes link depends on the type of cancer. The most dramatic increased risk is to pancreatic cancer…with diabetic men apparently 400 percent more likely to get pancreatic cancer than non-diabetics. In plain English, diabetes makes you five times as likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
And diabetic women are 300 percent more likely to develop blood cancer than non-diabetic women.
More likely to get cancer…
And far less likely to survive it…
A 2008 study by diabetes expert Dr. Fred Brancati of Johns Hopkins showed that the death rate from cancer is about 40 percent higher in diabetics than in the general population.
The one exception to this general rule is prostate cancer. The data suggest that diabetes may actually be protective against prostate cancer—which seems like a mystery.
Personally, I’d opt to skip diabetes and take my chances with prostate cancer versus say, pancreatic… as prostate is a far less aggressive form of cancer.
The 3 primary “suspects” in
the cancer-diabetes connection
Once you realize there’s a connection between diabetes and cancer, the next logical question is, “What is the mechanism?”
Researchers cite three suspects:
- Insulin. Many researchers think high insulin is the primary culprit. Type-2 diabetics are insulin resistant. When you have diabetes, your body drives up its insulin production to compensate, often over a period of years. High insulin is associated with higher cancer risk. And in animals, high insulin is a growth factor for tumors.Your pancreas makes insulin, which then goes straight to your liver… a key factor why these two organs have such high insulin levels. Some experts think that’s what makes these two organs so vulnerable to cancer.High insulin also boosts sex hormone production by the ovaries, which may be the hidden link to ovarian, uterine, and breast cancers. A 2008 study suggests that people with higher than normal insulin receptors are at higher risk of cancer.Harvard professor Edward Giovannucci, M.D. calls it a double whammy… Insulin encourages cell growth, discourages cell death, and boosts proliferation of cancer cells. At the same time, insulin also makes cancer cells more invasive and likely to spread.
- Blood glucose. Though insulin is the primary suspect, high blood glucose may play a role too. It’s a well-known fact that cancer cells are adept at slurping up glucose from your bloodstream, no insulin required. Since glucose (sugar) fuels cancer, high blood sugar levels may feed cancer cell growth.
- Inflammation. Diabetics and those who are obese usually have signs of chronic inflammation, based on C-reactive protein and other inflammatory markers in their blood.
But there may be a couple of other culprits too. And some are related to these three “suspects”.
How Well Do You Control These Secondary Factors?
There’s also the possibility of shared risk factors, that is, the same things may cause both cancer and diabetes. And it’s another “chicken or the egg factor”… No one knows for sure which comes first—the cancer or the diabetes.
Many people never even suspect they have diabetes until they’re screened for it after a cancer diagnosis. Sometimes sudden onset of diabetes occurs at the same time a person is diagnosed with diabetes.
Which of the following shared risk factors do you have? While two of these are beyond your control, the other three are within your control.
- Age. The older you are, the more at risk you are for both cancer and diabetes.
- Gender. Men get more cancer overall, and have a slightly higher diabetes risk.
- Weight. Can increase your risk for both conditions.
- Activity. Sedentary lifestyles can boost your risks of both.
- Smoking. It’s linked to several kinds of cancer, as well as type-2 diabetes.
Stubborn weight gain is one of your most obvious early hints of faulty insulin signaling and high blood sugar levels. Pay attention to this “advanced warning” now, and you may be able to avoid a world of regret later.
The hidden factor you probably won’t
hear about from your doctor
In March 2013 the U.S. FDA announced it was investigating a potential link between a popular class of diabetes drugs called DPP-4 inhibitors and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and pre-cancerous cellular changes to the pancreasii. Previous studies also show these drugs are linked to thyroid, colon, melanoma, and prostate cancer.
These drugs, also known as incretin mimetics, work by mimicking incretin hormones. They inhibit the enzyme DPP-4, a natural tumor suppressor. As your blood sugar rises, these drugs prompt your pancreas to release insulin.
Here’s how they may cause cancer:
- DPP-4 is a natural tumor suppressor
- These drugs shut it down, so by taking them you continuously inhibit one of your body’s natural cancer suppressors.
- The drug information for Januvia, one of the drugs in this class, says it inhibits the DPP-4 enzyme for 24 hours. Patients are expected to take it daily, meaning the tumor suppressor is constantly shut down.
Therefore, you’ll want to ask yourself…
Do you need these drugs in the first place?
Today there’s overwhelming evidence that you own the ability to prevent and control diabetes without the use of any drugs in the first place. Entire books have been written about it.
In fact, simple lifestyle remedies exist for many health problems… while poorly tested drugs can cause disastrous results—like cancer—for millions.
Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to reverse your diabetes—and potentially save yourself from a cancer diagnosis as well.
- Slash carbohydrates from your diet (breads, cereals, pasta, rice…). You can eat almost unlimited portions of most vegetables without gaining weight, with the exception of higher-carb vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and beets, which you may want to limit. Limit portion sizes of other foods. This is also true for nearly every beverage besides water—soda, juices, alcoholic drinks, etc. Stay far away.
- Get at least 21/2 hours of moderately brisk exercise per week. It’s one of the best ways to reduce your insulin regulating problems. Why not start with a 30-minute walk after work every day? Besides being better insulin control, it’ll help you de-stress from your day.
- Get 6 to 8 hours of refreshing sleep every night. Sleep deprivation is strongly linked to both diabetes and cancer.
- Make sure your vitamin D levels are 50 to 70 ng/ml based on the 25(OH)D test. This range has been identified as best for optimal healthiii. Lower levels are associated with both cancer and diabetes.
- Make every effort to lose some weight and keep it off. Even a mere five or ten pounds can make a big difference. Obviously more is better, especially if you’re substantially above your ideal weight. Rejoice in small improvements, and don’t let jokes or criticism from other people bother you.
- Quit smoking if you’re a smoker. It is strongly linked to both diseases.
- Stick with your plan for 3 months. Expect incremental changes while your body adjusts to better insulin and blood sugar controls. This is a marathon to better health, not a sprint.
So here’s the bottom line:
Avoid diabetes, and your chances for sidestepping cancer dramatically improve.