Treatment that has been found safe for prostate cancer in man’s best friend could eventually benefit man as well.

Sandra Axiak-Bechtel says the gold nanoparticle therapy that has proven safe in dogs must now be tested for its effectiveness in treatment of prostate cancer.

Scientists at the University of Missouri have found that injecting gold nanoparticles into prostate cancer tumors in dogs is safe for the dogs. Doctor Sandra Axiak-Bechtel, an assistant professor in oncology at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, says when made radioactive those particles give off a lot of energy for a short period, theoretically killing off a lot of cancer cells faster.

“The gold nanoparticle itself if compared to traditional brachytherapy that is used in people tends to distribute better throughout the tumor and actually cause less side effects.”

The nanoparticles are injected into the prostate tumor, guided by CT scans, while the dogs are under anesthesia.

The idea came from work at the MU School of Medicine and the College of Arts and Science. Axiak-Bechtel says one of their advancements was finding a way to keep those nanoparticles from aggregating, which makes them really hard to use for treatment. “Doctor Kattesh Katti and a whole group at the Department of Radiology have actually coated them with gum arabic, which is a natural and very non-toxic product that keeps them from aggregating. What that means is that we can use them very safely for treatment without having or anticipating any side effects.”

Now that the treatment has been proven safe, the next step is to test its effectiveness.

“At this point we’re way too early in our study to determine whether or not we think this is as effective as brachytherapy or even more effective than traditional brachytherapy.”

If it proves effective, it could be a promising treatment for men. “Because prostate tumors are so similar in the way that they behave in dogs compared to the very aggressive disease in men, we anticipate that any side effects we would see in the dog would be the same as what we would see in a person.”

Axiak-Bechtel says she’s also excited for what the work could mean for dogs.

“It’s a very, very difficult tumor to treat and we just don’t have very effective treatments at this point in time for prostate cancer in dogs, so the ability to not just help men in the future but also help dogs is very important.”

The dogs involved are pets brought to the University for treatment, not research animals.