MU researchers utilize gold nanoparticles in prostate cancer treatment

The new method has proven effective MU researchers have made progress on a new prostate cancer treatment method.

Researchers at MU have proven their new gold nanoparticle treatment for prostate cancer is effective in dogs and are one step closer to developing a new, safer treatment for humans.

The new method involves injecting radioactive gold particles directly into the cancerous tumor. Because of their size, gold particles distribute evenly throughout the prostate tumor and do not affect other organs as severely as traditional treatments. The new method also decreases the occurrence of side effects because it requires a much smaller dosage of harmful radioactive particles.

The team first began testing its treatment on mice but is now testing on dogs. Much like humans, dogs naturally develop very aggressive prostate cancer, according to Sandra Axiak-Bechtel, an assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

After enough work is done on the canine specimens, research will begin with human test subjects.

“While our ultimate goal is to help men with prostate cancer, dogs develop it naturally as well,” Axiak-Bechtel said. “The form that dogs develop is very aggressive and very uncommon, and we have little information about it. Our research is not only beneficial to humans but to dogs as well.”

Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although treatable if caught early, prostate cancer is difficult to manage after it becomes aggressive or spreads to other parts of the body. According to the National Cancer Institute, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

“We challenged ourselves to develop a radioactive nanoparticulate construct … that would effectively treat prostate cancer without toxic side effects,” the team wrote in a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. “We sought nothing less than a significant oncological breakthrough for treating prostate cancer.”

The project began in 2009 and involves many different departments across campus. Researchers from the Research Reactor, veterinary medical oncologists at the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Radiology have all worked on the nanoparticle research.

“It’s a huge collaborative project that’s a good example of what work is possible at MU,” Axiak-Bechtel said.

Research depends on dogs brought to the MU Veterinary Clinic and can't continue unless new ones are brought in. The team does not introduce cancer to healthy dogs but attempts the treatment on family pets that have already developed prostate cancer.

“The most difficult part of my job is actually treating the cancer itself," Axiak-Bechtel said. "I have to introduce to owners of the dog the idea that their dog has cancer. For us, it’s all about quality of life, and it’s hard when the dog’s quality of life begins to decrease.”

The group hopes to publish their "safety results" on dogs by November. The team’s research is funded by the MU Institute for Clinical and Transitional Science and the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer.

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