NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- We're used to seeing gold in our jewelry, but what about in medicine? More specifically -- cancer medicine.
As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, that's the latest approach to treating prostate cancer. It uses nanoparticles of gold and lasers to kill the cancer cells.
The beauty of gold is that it remains inert in the body until it's hit with a laser beam and gets hot -- so if you put really tiny bits of gold into a tumor and then light it up with a laser, the heat would kill the cancer.
Doctors have now figured out how to do this.
"My doctor did a blood test and a digital exam and told me that it looked like I had prostate cancer," cancer patient Marty Feeny.
In fact, a biopsy confirmed that Feeny had prostate cancer but he did not want the standard treatment for the disease.
"Whether it be surgery, some of these side effects could be very detrimental and I was looking for something else," Feeny said.
So he saw Dr. Art Rastinehad at Mount Sinai hospital who explained that prostate cancer is usually just a couple of spots within the prostate, so why go after the entire gland with radiation or surgery.
"The idea that we can treat a specific spot within the prostate while sparing the normal tissue which include the nerves and the urinary sphincter so we can avoid those side effects," Dr. Rastinehad said.
The key to this focal therapy is first using advanced imaging that finds just the cancerous spots within the prostate. That's where the gold comes in.
The nanoparticles are 100 times smaller that even a red blood cell, and because blood vessels in cancers are leaky, the tiny gold particles escape and lodge in the tumors.
In the operating room, Dr. Rastinehad puts a laser fiber right into the cancer within the prostate.
"The laser has been designed just to excite the particles," Dr. Rastinehad said. "It doesn't get absorbed by water and, or blood, so the particles heat up and then they destroy the tissue, allowing us to spare the rest of the prostate."
Feeny was the first patient in the U.S. to have the gold nanoparticle treatment. It's been almost a year and not only is he cancer free, he says he's also free of any negative side effects.
"It's been great," Feeny said. "From day one there were no side effects."
In fact, Feeny told CBS2's Dr. Gomez he was riding a bike within a week of his treatment.
Dr. Rastinehad has treated ten men so far in a clinical trial, and all are doing well.
The right patients are those with intermediate-grade prostate cancer in just a couple of spots within the prostate.
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