Enlarge / Nanoparticles (black dots) sit in the remains of a cell they’ve helped kill. (credit: University of Michigan)
One of the ways to kill a cancer is to cook it, since heat can kill cells.

The trick, of course, is to only cook the cancer and not the surrounding tissue.

To do this, you need to have an accurate idea of the extent of a tumor, a precise mechanism for delivering heat, and a damn good thermometer.
It may surprise you to learn that gold nanoparticles do a pretty good job of achieving the first two.

The third—a good thermometer—has eluded researchers for quite some time.

But, now it seems that gold nanoparticles may provide the full trifecta.
Drowning a tumor in molten gold
Some cancers—the ones most people imagine when they think of cancer—form lumps of tissue.

At some point, these lumps require a blood supply. Once supplied with blood vessels, the tumor can not only grow, but it has a readily available transport system to deliver the cells that can spread the cancer throughout the body.

For the patient, this is not good news.
The development of a blood supply opens up new imaging and treatment options, though.

Cancer tumors are not well-organized tissues compared to healthy tissue like muscle or kidney tissue.
So there are lots of nooks and crannies in a tumor that can trap small particles.

And that is exactly what researchers hope to take advantage of.

Gold nanoparticles are injected into the blood stream; these exit the blood supply, but, in most of the body, they get rapidly cleaned out.

Except for inside tumors, where the nanoparticles lodge all over the place.
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