Can Gold Nanomaterials Successfully Boost Cancer Treatment?

The efficient treatment of cancer using gold-based nanoparticles of various shapes and sizes has been reviewed and presented in the study published in the MDPI journal Nanomaterials.

Can Gold Nanomaterials Successfully Boost Cancer Treatment?

​​​​​​Study: Engineering Gold Nanostructures for Cancer Treatment: Spherical Nanoparticles, Nanorods, and Atomically Precise Nanoclusters. Image Credit: Buravleva stock/

Nanotechnology and Its Role in Cancer Treatment

Cancer is considered a global health issue and is among the top causes of death. Substantial work has been done over the last twenty years to develop an effective treatment for cancer, but just a few achievements have been realized. As a result, there is a considerable need for innovative cancer diagnosis and treatment options.

With the introduction and rise of nanoscience, there has been an unprecedented increase in the study and utilization of nanotechnology in cancer therapy, providing optimism that the drawbacks of employing traditional cancer medicines may be avoided.

Gold Nanoparticles – Fighting Cancer One Cell at A Time

Gold-based nanostructures have shown significant potential as new agents in cancer therapy because of characteristics like adjustable optical characteristics, readily functionalized outer layer, and outstanding biological compatibility. Tiny gold nanoparticles (NPs), for example, may passively amass and persist at the tumor's location via their permeation and retention properties.

Adding to this, gold NP surfaces may be easily functionalized with bioactive moieties including the likes of peptides, monoclonal antibodies, proteins, and small therapeutic molecules to eliminate uptake.

What Does Previous Research Say?

Previous research has demonstrated that the architecture of gold NPs may play a significant role in cancer therapy. In a preliminary comparison of gold nanorods, nano-hexapods, and nanocages for light-based thermal cancer therapy, gold nanohexapods outperformed both in contrast-enhanced diagnosis and light-based thermal annihilation of cancer cells.

In another study, the radio-sensitization influence of three types of gold-based nanostructures (gold NPs, gold nanorods (NRs), gold nanospikes (NSs)) was evaluated using X-rays.

It was discovered that the cellular internalization effectiveness was greatest for gold nanoparticles, followed by gold nanospikes and gold nanorods, respectively.

Different Gold Nanostructures and Their Advantages

Gold-based nanostructures are of different types. Among these different types, the three main types utilized for cancer therapy are spherical gold NPs, gold nanoclusters (NCs), and gold NRs. These are used based primarily on their size and morphological characteristics, as well as their recognition for utilization in biomedical study.

Importantly, the three gold-based nanostructures have certain similar but distinct benefits for cancer treatment, some of which have already been reported. When illuminated, spherical gold NPs and gold NRs exhibit localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), where LSPR is linked to free electron oscillations.

LSPR is extremely reactive to the surface size, shape, capping agent, and index of refraction. This makes the optical-based absorption of gold NPs and NRs range from the visible spectrum to near-infrared.

For gold-based NCs, such LSPR vanishes, leaving just distinct absorbance peaks. Furthermore, gold NCs with molecular purity, precise composition, and well-defined structure may be manufactured, providing an ideal platform for developing structure–functionality connections in biomedical research.

The Basis of Current Research

The recent success in using spherical gold NPs, gold NRs, and gold NCs for cancer therapy is highlighted in this study. The primary parameters that might impact performance, such as size, shape, optical ability, stability, surface ligand, and biological compatibility, have also been studied.

Owing to the fact that gold-based nanostructures for the treatment of cancer are covered in depth in previous research, the study exclusively concentrated on sphere-shaped gold NPs, gold NRs, and gold NCs in regards to the form of gold-based nanostructures.

The study solely targeted tumors with a high incidence, including breast, skin, colon, and liver cancer. Furthermore, the efforts of the study focused on light-based thermal therapy, drug delivery system, cell imaging, and biological sensing for cancer treatment.

Results of the Study

The team concluded that gold-based nanostructures, particularly spherical gold NPs, gold NRs, and gold NCs, are promising cancer therapy prospects.

The team also stated that gold-based nanostructures are very compelling for cancer diagnosis and therapy due to their remarkable optical characteristics, effortless surface alteration, low cytotoxicity, exceptional biological compatibility, and outstanding stability.

It was highlighted that despite a few limitations and drawbacks, that team believes that further research efforts will propel gold-based nanostructures toward meaningful medical applications.


He, W., Ma, G., Shen, Q., & Tang, Z. (2022). Engineering Gold Nanostructures for Cancer Treatment: Spherical Nanoparticles, Nanorods, and Atomically Precise Nanoclusters. Nanomaterials. Available at:

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Shaheer Rehan

Written by

Shaheer Rehan

Shaheer is a graduate of Aerospace Engineering from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad. He has carried out research on a wide range of subjects including Aerospace Instruments and Sensors, Computational Dynamics, Aerospace Structures and Materials, Optimization Techniques, Robotics, and Clean Energy. He has been working as a freelance consultant in Aerospace Engineering for the past year. Technical Writing has always been a strong suit of Shaheer's. He has excelled at whatever he has attempted, from winning accolades on the international stage in match competitions to winning local writing competitions. Shaheer loves cars. From following Formula 1 and reading up on automotive journalism to racing in go-karts himself, his life revolves around cars. He is passionate about his sports and makes sure to always spare time for them. Squash, football, cricket, tennis, and racing are the hobbies he loves to spend his time in.


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