Cancer Susceptible to the Toxic Effects of Silver Compounds

There are numerous stories throughout the internet suggesting silver can be used to treat cancer. Now, a study from the University of Leeds reveals that it is as effective as the leading chemotherapy drug - and may pose fewer side-effects. The results, published in Dalton Transactions, display that certain silver compounds are as toxic to cancer cells as the platinum-based drug Cisplatin, which is commonly used to treat a variety of cancers.

However, the crucial difference is that silver is believed to be much less dangerous to healthy human cells, and in some cases, may even be beneficial. Silver is currently employed in bandages, wound dressings, and water purification filters in the third world due to its antiseptic and antibiotic properties.

Patients treated with Cisplatin commonly see side effects that include nausea and vomiting, kidney damage, and an increased risk of infection. The drug is most often used to treat cancer relating to the lungs, breast, bladder, testicles, head and neck, ovaries, and lymph nodes.

Lead author, Dr. Charlotte Willans claims: "As many are unfortunately aware, chemotherapy can be a very grueling experience for the patient. Finding effective, yet non-toxic drugs is an ongoing problem, but these preliminary results are an important step in solving it."

She adds, "Our research has looked at the structure which surrounds a central silver atom. This 'shrubbery' is what determines how reactive it is and what it will interact with. Our research has used different types of these ligands to see which is the most effective against cancer cells,"

The research, still in the first phase of drug development, involved testing different silver based compounds on breast and colon cancer cells for six day periods. A major obstacle to continuing to develop these compounds is a lack of understanding regarding how they work. During the coming year, researchers will focus on deciphering how the compounds damage the cancerous cells and what effects they have on healthy cells. The University of Leeds research team hopes to aid in the design and development of the next-generation of chemotherapy drugs.


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