Heavy metals may help with cancer treatment, study finds

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When you hear “heavy metals,” your mind might instantly gravitate towards environmental pollution or toxicity.

However, Professor Sylvestre Bonnet of Leiden University argues that these metals could be medical game-changers, specifically in the treatment of cancer.

A New Approach to Chemotherapy

Bonnet’s research group focuses on a novel approach to chemotherapy, using light-activated drugs containing the metal ruthenium.

Unlike conventional chemotherapy, which indiscriminately attacks healthy and cancerous cells alike, this innovative treatment only becomes active when exposed to light.

The idea is simple yet revolutionary: once the drug reaches the tumor, clinicians shine light on it to activate the chemotherapy agent.

“What makes ruthenium special is that it keeps the molecule stable in darkness. It only reacts with organic cells when activated by light,” explains Bonnet.

The Versatility of Light Activation

Ruthenium’s properties make it an ideal candidate for a wide range of tumor types. It can absorb different kinds of light—green, red, and infrared—each with its own depth of penetration.

For example, green light only penetrates the skin to a few millimeters, while infrared light can penetrate up to two centimeters.

Challenging Prejudices Against Heavy Metals

The idea of using metals in medicine isn’t entirely new, but prejudices against heavy metals often create roadblocks.

“People have this notion that heavy metals are always toxic. Just one ruthenium atom in a molecule, and they think the whole thing must be dangerous.

But it’s not the individual ruthenium atom; it’s the combination of atoms that determines toxicity,” says Bonnet.

The Future Looks Bright

While ruthenium is already being used in eye cancer treatment, Bonnet believes there is still much work to be done to bring the broader medical community on board.

The exploration into metal-based drugs is expanding, even beyond cancer treatment. For example, researchers are looking into enhancing malaria drugs like chloroquine by adding various metals to it.

Bonnet’s lab continues to refine the ruthenium-based treatment. “We’re investigating the biodistribution of the ruthenium-containing molecule in the body post-injection.

We’re also exploring which types of light work best for specific tumors,” says Bonnet.

As research into metal drugs gathers momentum, it’s becoming increasingly clear that not all heavy metals are villains; some might just turn out to be unsung heroes in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

If you care about cancer, please read studies that a low-carb diet could increase overall cancer risk, and berry that can prevent cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how drinking milk affects the risks of heart disease and cancer and results showing vitamin D supplements could strongly reduce cancer death.

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