Golden opportunity for Lymphoma patients

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A golden opportunity to help patients fighting Lymphoma.

It’s a type of cancer that arises in the lymph nodes and travels — from the tonsils to the spleen to the bone marrow. Chemotherapy and the drug rituximab are highly effective. But doctors think they can do better.

Dr. Leo Gordon, oncologist, Northwestern Medicine: “All the treatments can be relatively toxic, so we’re looking for new ways to treat lymphomas.”

Dr. Shad Thaxton, Lymphoma Researcher, Northwestern Medicine: “We’re talking about a nanoparticle treatment that may, in fact, be 180 degrees from that.”

Nanoparticles – tiny but promising carriers scientists send into the body on search and destroy missions.

Dr. Thaxton: “Floating around in there are solid gold metal nanoparticles. The gold is exactly like what you would have in a gold ring or jewelry.”

But it’s not the precious metal that makes this vile so precious.

Dr. Thaxton: “The gold itself, we believe, is inert.”

The gold serves no real purpose other than to fill a space normally occupied by cholesterol – a favorite meal of lymphoma cells.

Dr. Thaxton: “So what we’ve developed is a nanoparticle that looks a lot like, on the outside, this natural HDL.”

Built here in Shad Thaxton’s lab – the nanoparticle was disguised to look exactly like HDL cholesterol cells on the outside.

Dr. Thaxton: “Fats, lipids and a protein are the same fats, lipids and proteins on the surface of HDL.”

Northwestern Medicine’s Dr. Leo Gordon then put the particle to the test. Not knowing they were part of a bait and switch operation, lymphoma cells gobbled up the gold nanoparticles.

Dr. Thaxton: “By doing that the particle starves the cell of cholesterol and that becomes very toxic. They need that cholesterol to grow, divide and multiply. We’re excited this will be a non-toxic treatment for b-cell lymphoma.”

The researchers are continuing their work on the gold nanoparticle in the lab, and hope to conduct more animal studies, with human trials about two years away.

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