Using gold against prostate cancer: nothing is too precious to save lives!

21 August 2013

Montreal -

PRESS RELEASE                                              

Using gold against prostate cancer: nothing is too precious to save lives!

37 research projects receive a Canadian Cancer Society’s Innovation Grant


Quebec City, August 21, 2013 – Tiny gold particles could revolutionize the treatment of prostate cancer. This is the aim of one of the 37 research projects receiving a Canadian Cancer Society’s Innovation Grant this year. Of a total of $7 million, $2.6 million will be distributed to 13 Quebec researchers. Dr Marc-André Fortin, a CHU de Québec researcher, will receive $197,970 to test whether treatment using radioactive gold nanoparticles is more effective than conventional brachytherapy to destroy prostate tumours.

A third of prostate cancer patients are currently treated with brachytherapy in which radioactive “seeds” are directly implanted into the prostate gland to destroy the tumour through radiation. This treatment is often preferred to standard or “external” radiation therapy because it is very localized and spares healthy tissues while shortening the time spent in hospital to a day rather than a month of repeated cycles.

“Brachytherapy is a very good treatment for prostate cancer, but the radioactivity is not evenly spread,” says Dr Fortin, also a Laval University professor. The radioactivity is strong close to the seeds, but attenuates quickly for cells that are further away. So, a cancer cell that is too far from a seed can escape the treatment and trigger a recurrence of the disease.

In addition, the insertion of 80 to 100 seeds the size of rice grains into the prostate gland, an organ that is in general the size of a walnut, can cause discomfort in patients.

So, Dr Fortin’s team had the idea of using gold nanoparticles which can better homogenize the radioactivity throughout the tumour. In fact, the particles can spread throughout the tissue and the precious metal has the property of absorbing radioactivity and then transmitting new radiation. “Where this team is clearly innovative is in trying to trap gold nanoparticles in the tumour by injecting them mixed with a polymer, which solidifies when exposed to UV rays,” says Melody Enguix, research spokesperson at the Canadian Cancer Society – Quebec Division.

This combination can be used as an adjunct to the current capsules to enhance their effectiveness, or even replace them with radioactive nanoparticles. Through biomedical imaging, this research will also help confirm that nanoparticles stay trapped within the prostate gland.

Other projects funded in Quebec and the rest of Canada:

Personalized treatment for brain cancer

Dr Siham Sabri, researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is working on the treatment of glioblastoma, a brain cancer with a gloomy prognosis. Patients with this disease usually receive a type of chemotherapy which is only effective for half of them. For others, a treatment that blocks the vascularization of tumours (anti-angiogenesis) is today being tested in a new clinical trial. The researcher is going to study patients’ blood samples to try and come up with a blood test that can identify patients for whom this treatment would be effective unlike standard chemotherapy. She is receiving $200,000 to conduct the research.

Hearing cancer in the blood

Dr Michael Kolios, a researcher at Ryerson University in Toronto, is working on a device to detect cancer by listening to the sounds produced by normal and abnormal blood cells. His device emits ultrasound and laser waves on drops of blood from patients and picks up the sound waves that the cells send back. In the long term, his Innovation Grant of $170,000 can help develop a futuristic tool to detect cancer by listening to veins on the surface of the body.


$7 million worth of Innovation Grants awarded by the CCS

The Canadian Cancer Society has announced a total of 37 new Innovation Grants today. Of these, 13 will go to Quebec researchers (that is, $2.6 million). These grants, worth more than $7 million in total, aim to ensure that new ideas which could revolutionize cancer care can be tested at time when review panels are often conservative and willing to fund fewer innovative projects. So, the grants support research projects that could revolutionize our understanding of cancer or create whole new ways of preventing, detecting, and treating it.

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. All these years, we have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support people touched by the disease. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. To know more about cancer, visit our website at or call our Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.



Melody Enguix, Scientific Communication Advisor, CCS – Quebec Division

menguix@quebec.cancer.ca514 255-2455 ext 2416


André Beaulieu, Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, Public Relations, CCS – Quebec Division

abeaulieu@quebec.cancer.ca514 393-3444 

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

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