Silver compounds have been shown to be just as deadly to cancer cells as platinum-based chemotherapy agents, but much less toxic to health cells. And in some cases the silver seems to be beneficial in other ways.
"Ask your oncologist which chemo drugs you are receiving."
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds is searching for ways to find less toxic ways of treating cancer, and they have been focused on examining various silver compounds.
"As many are unfortunately aware, chemotherapy can be a very grueling experience for the patient," said Dr. Charlotte Willans, who is leading the study. "Finding effective, yet non-toxic drugs is an ongoing problem, but these preliminary results are an important step in solving it," she concluded.
A range of side effects, including nausea and vomiting, increased risks of infection and kidney damage are commonly seen with Cisplatin which is used to treat cancers of the breast, bladder, lungs, testicles, head and neck, ovaries and lymph nodes.
Silver is known for its antiseptic and antibiotic properties and is currently used in bandages. It's also used for water purification systems in the third world.
This preliminary research examined the effect of exposing different silver-based chemicals to breast and colon cancer cells over a six-day period.
Researchers found that the cells bonded well to the central atom of the silver, which was released slowly to make the compounds more effective over a longer period of time.
Despite these findings, researchers still don't understand exactly how the silver compounds work. This will be the focus of research over the next 12 months.
The goal of this work is to determine exactly how silver complexes damage cancer cells and if they are less toxic to healthy tissue. Results will then be used to develop what authors call "the next generation of chemotherapy drugs.
This study was published in Dalton Transactions.
This research is a collaborative effort with Dr. Roger Phillips at the University of Bradford. It's funded by the Yorkshire Cancer Research.
No conflicts of interest have been disclosed.