News Feature | March 28, 2014

Gold-Based Drug Can Be Used Against Bone Cancer

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Researchers from the University of Florida reported that the gold-based drug aurothiomalate can be used to combat osteosarcoma, a severe form of bone cancer that afflicts both dogs and people. The researchers’ findings were published in Anti-Cancer Drugs.

Aurothiomalate, commonly known as gold salts, is used to manage certain immune diseases. The researchers found that the drug was able to keep cancer cells from forming in the laboratory. Dr. Valery Scharf, small animal surgery resident at UF and the study’s lead author, said, “We also were able to demonstrate that the drug slows tumor growth and decreases metastasis when canine bone tumors were created in a mouse model… This study shows that there is potential promise for the role of gold drugs as a part of bone cancer treatment in dogs and potentially in people, although more studies are needed before we can use them in a clinical setting.” 

Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone tumor in dogs. The disease accounts for around 80% of cancerous tumors in the canine skeleton. Osteosarcoma frequently appears in the front leg of canines. In people, the disease is rare but also affects the long bones of the body. Osteosarcoma in people is typically diagnosed before the age of 25.

Use of gold compounds in human medicine is based on the metal’s ability to affect the body’s immune response and anti-inflammatory properties. Aurothiomalate in particular has been the focus of studies investigating its potential effect against certain cancers. Further study is required to better understand how aurothiomalate works against osteosarcoma cancer cells, according to the researchers.

Dr. Scharf said, “Osteosarcoma is a frustrating disease, as you can treat the local tumor, but the metastasis is something there is no effective means of preventing… One of the interesting things to me in studying oncology and our pets is that their disease often translates to human disease as well. Therefore, research on the animal side can potentially translate to human medicine as well.”