Gold Nanoparticles Suppressing Tumor Growth in Pancreatic Cancer

by Rideeta Raquib ’19

Figure 1. Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease and new technology involving gold nanoparticles could be useful in targeting these malignant cells.


Gold is one of the most valuable resources in the world, and its value may be even greater due to its potential as a new treatment for pancreatic cancer. Previously, gold nanoparticles, AuNPs, were used to target tumor regions and aid in the transport of drugs and chemotherapy to the tumor.  A previous study showed that gold nanoparticles had the ability to inhibit tumor growth of ovarian cancers in mice. Likewise, desmoplasia, a pancreatic fibrous connective tissue between pancreatic cells and cancer cells, has been used to test whether gold nanoparticles could inhibit pancreatic cancer growth.

Dr. Sounik Saha, from the University of Oklahoma Health Center, and his team of researchers utilized mice to test the effect of gold nanoparticles on pancreatic cancer cells, or PCCs. A two-way communication between PCCs and pancreatic stellate cells, or PSCs, is prominent in tumor growth, fat storage, and fibrosis. This communication involves cytokines such as transforming connective tissue and platelet derived growth factors. Saha and his team investigated whether unmodified 20 nm AuNPs could be used to disrupt the two-way communication and reprogram the tumor microenvironment to inhibit pancreatic cancer cells. The exposure of AuNPs to the mouse tumors demonstrated that the migration of the PCCs and PSCs were prevented. The PSCs had higher levels of collagen I, III, and IV as opposed to PCCs or noncancerous pancreatic ductal epithelial cells. Previous studies utilizing proliferation assays have shown that AuNPs did not affect nonmalignant cells.

Further analysis of the proteins in the AuNP-altered cell secretome conveyed that the particles impaired secretions in the hub nodes, the place with a network of interconnections in the PSC, giving it a more lipid-rich phenotype. Overall, the reduction in activation of PSCs and disruption in the link between PCCs and PSCs caused by AuNPs prevented tumor growth. Scientists believe that the employment of gold nanoparticles technique will be a novel incorporation to pancreatic cancer treatment and therapy.


  1. S. Saha, et al., Gold nanoparticle reprograms pancreatic tumor microenvironment and inhibits tumor growth. ACS Nano (2016). doi: 10.1021/acsnano.6b02231
  2. Image retrieved from:

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