Cancer treatment could be enhanced by gold-based molecules engineered by Australian researchers which leave behind fewer toxic side effects.
The RMIT University study published in 'Chemistry - A European Journal' found the molecules were up to 24 times more effective at killing cancer cells than widey used anti-cancer drug cisplatin.
It's hoped the molecules could lead to a promising new class of gold-based drugs that can wipe out the cancer without destroying healthy cells.
RMIT's Molecular Engineering Group co-leader Dr Neda Mirzadeh said the effectiveness of other metal-based drugs is limited due to toxic side effects.
"The gold-based molecules we've designed are far more selective and stable," Dr Mirzadeh said.
"Our results show there's incredible potential here for the development of new cancer-fighting therapeutics that can deliver lasting power and precision."
The molecules were evaluated in pre-clinical tests and found to be highly toxic against prostate, breast, cervical, melanoma and colon cancer cells.
Animal trials showed the molecules inhibited tumour growth up to 46.9 per cent compared to 29 per cent with cisplatin.
The research group, which falls under the umbrella of RMIT's Centre for Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry (CAMIC), are one of just a few in the world focusing on the medical potential of gold.
CAMIC director Distinguished Professor Suresh Bhargava said gold had an ancient history of medical use, particularly in India and China.
"We know that gold is readily accepted by the human body and we know it has been used for thousands of years in treating various conditions," Professor Bhargava said.
"Essentially, gold has been market tested, but not scientifically validated.
"Our work is helping both provide the evidence base that's missing, as well as delivering new families of molecules that are tailor-made to amplify the natural healing properties of gold."
The research team is seeking funding to support the next stage of the research including clinical studies.
Australian Associated Press