First-ever prostate cancer treatment uses gold nanoparticles to destroy tumorous cells

November 8, 2018, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Steven Canfield, M.D., with the advanced imaging he uses to identify and diagnose the cancer. Credit: UTHealth

A small clinical trial using gold nanoparticles that act as tumor-seeking missiles on a mission to remove prostate cancer has begun at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). It is the first trial of its kind in the world.

The nanoparticles, or nanoshells, are made of small layers of silica glass formed into a sphere and wrapped in a thin layer of gold. The shells seek out and saturate cancerous cells, and their advanced vibrational properties are then harnessed to cause the tumorous tissue to pulse with extreme temperature when light is applied through a laser specifically designed to excite the particles. The oscillation kills the while preserving the healthy tissue, avoiding the nerves and urinary sphincter. This procedure is the first in the world that is precise enough to potentially avoid negative ramifications like urinary incontinence or sexual impotency.

"This therapy could be life-changing for men diagnosed with and I'm honored to be among the first doctors the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved to put it to the test," said Steven Canfield, M.D., chair of the division of urology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, who recognized the possibility of the nanoparticles to treat and helped developed the trial to test the theory.

Prostate cancer begins when cells in a man's prostate gland mutate and start to grow uncontrollably. Other than skin cancer, prostate is the most common cancer in American men, with an estimated 1 out of 9 men diagnosed. The American Cancer Society estimates 29,430 men died from the disease in 2018 alone.

Photo of the nanoshells taken via a scanning electron microsope. Credit: Nanospectra Biosciences

Treatment options have traditionally included radical prostatectomy, which is the removal of the prostate gland and some of the tissue around it, radiation therapy and cryotherapy, among others. These methods carry the potential to have a negative impact on urinary function and sexual performance.

"The side effects of current prostate cancer treatments can be extremely traumatic. This new technology holds the potential to eliminate those life-altering effects, while still removing the and reducing hospital and recovery time," Canfield said. "In fact, the first patient in the trial was actually riding a bike within a week of his treatment. The fusion of MRI and that we use to accurately identify and diagnose the cancer, combined with the extreme precision of the gold nanoshells in targeting the diseased cells, allows us to be incredibly accurate at obliterating them. I am excited as we continue tracking the progress of this groundbreaking improvement to prostate cancer care."

Doug Flewellen, the first patient in Texas to receive the new method of care, says for him, the procedure was a no-brainer.

"No man wants to go through radical removal, and I knew active monitoring could have potentially aggravated the cancer," Flewellen said. "The side effects of traditional treatment were not worth it to me, and I wasn't afraid to try the most cutting-edge technology. Looking back, the experience was even better than I was expecting, and I hope to see nanoparticle therapy advance into an option for anyone diagnosed with prostate cancer in the future."

The were invented by Naomi Halas, the head of Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics. Canfield worked closely with Halas and Nanospectra Biosciences, the company where the shells are licensed, to incorporate the state-of-the-art technology into the trial that is also underway at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of Michigan to test the efficacy of the therapy.

Explore further: ALS drug may help treat prostate cancer

More information: To see the requirements and learn more about the trial, visit: clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02680535

Related Stories

ALS drug may help treat prostate cancer

October 3, 2018
Researchers have discovered a new use for an old drug as a potential treatment for prostate cancer. The findings are published in the journal The Prostate.

Surgery improves survival rates for men with prostate cancer if radiation treatments fail

March 10, 2016
Approximately 14 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetimes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Radiation therapy traditionally has been a primary treatment for the ...

Fewer men are being screened, diagnosed, and treated for prostate cancer

May 21, 2018
A new study reveals declines in prostate cancer screening and diagnoses in the United States in recent years, as well as decreases in the use of definitive treatments in men who have been diagnosed. The findings are published ...

Sexual function concerns not always reflected in prostate cancer treatment choices

October 25, 2017
Preserving sexual function was important to many men facing treatment for prostate cancer, according to a recent study by University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers. However, this preference ...

UH Seidman Cancer Center first in the world to apply SBRT

April 27, 2016
University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center physicians have started the world's first clinical trial using a new form of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) to deliver radiation to a specific area of the prostate invaded ...

New treatment regimen extends life for some men with recurrent prostate cancer, study finds

February 1, 2017
Adding hormonal therapy to radiation treatment can significantly improve the average long-term survival of men with prostate cancer who have had their prostate gland removed, according to a new Cedars-Sinai study published ...

Recommended for you

Obesity both feeds tumors and helps immunotherapy kill cancer

November 12, 2018
A groundbreaking new study by UC Davis researchers has uncovered why obesity both fuels cancer growth and allows blockbuster new immunotherapies to work better against those same tumors.

Cancer stem cells get energy from protein, and it's proving to be their Achilles' heel

November 12, 2018
Think of energy metabolism like a party popper: Ripping something apart releases a bang. Most of your cells rip apart sugar to release the "bang" of energy. Sometimes they rip apart fats, and in a pinch, cells can even metabolize ...

Scientists shine new light on link between obesity and cancer

November 12, 2018
Scientists have made a major discovery that shines a new, explanatory light on the link between obesity and cancer. Their research confirms why the body's immune surveillance systems—led by cancer-fighting Natural Killer ...

Two-pronged device enables maverick immune cells to identify and kill cancers

November 12, 2018
Immune cells called Gamma Delta T cells can act independently to identify and kill cancer cells, defying the conventional view of the immune system, reveals new research from the Francis Crick Institute and King's College ...

Research brings personalized medicine to treat leukemia one step closer

November 12, 2018
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have revealed the roles that different types of gene mutations play in causing blood cancers in a study that was the culmination of a decade's research.

Spread of deadly eye cancer halted in cells and animals

November 12, 2018
By comparing genetic sequences in the eye tumors of children whose cancers spread with tumors that didn't spread, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report new evidence that a domino effect in cells is responsible for the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.