UCD scientists strike gold with new hope for prostate cancer

UCD’s Prof Matthias Tacke

Eilish O'Regan

A potential treatment developed by Irish scientists and based on gold dust may provide new hope to men with advanced prostate cancer.

A team led by Prof Matthias Tacke, of the School of Chemistry at UCD, has developed the drug after 12 years of research.

Its ambition is now to have it accepted by a pharmaceutical company which would be able to take the next steps, involving trials on patients, before making it available commercially.

Prof Tacke said there were limited treatment options for men with advanced prostate cancer whose disease returns and who can't have any additional chemotherapy.

"We seem to have found a compound to overcome that," he said.

Prof Tacke, a chemist, made gold compound - not gold metal - which is a white water-soluble powder.

Gold complexes have been known for almost 100 years as anti-arthritis treatments and seem to work against certain forms of cancer as well.


They shut down the energy supply of cancer cells selectively and this is very important for the patient.

It means cancerous cells are targeted and healthy cells spared.

"We made 50 different gold complexes and tested them on different cancer cells," he said.

"Now we have tested them on mice, which are immune deficient."

As part of the experiment, the mice were injected with cancer cells and they developed tumours.

The treatment showed the mice who received the drug had slower-growing tumours, according to findings to be published in the journal Anti-Cancer Drugs.

The researchers have made chemical modifications to the gold centre to make the compound soluble and active against cancer.

There is a specific enzyme in cancer cells which is shut off.

The team hopes to get the candidate drug from its lab to clinical trials in humans - but a pharmaceutical company is needed to take up the baton from there.

Prof Tacke and his team will not make any financial gain.