28 March 2018

Silver against tumors

A new group of anti-cancer drugs has been discovered

Anton Bugaichuk, Naked Science

The University of Johannesburg has developed promising drugs for the treatment of cancer, namely, complex compounds of silver thiocyanate with triphenylphosphine, the simplest of which is [AgSCN(PPh 3)2]2, where Ph is phenyl.


Silver preparations have long been trying to be used for the treatment of oncological diseases, there are already some successes. In Russia, some surface tumors are now treated using the Lex Quantum apparatus: in addition to electrophoresis – in particular, silver preparations – UHF irradiation is used. Professors of the Priorov Research Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics G. A. Stepanov and the Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology A. G. Italtsev have also recently proposed a method of silver ion therapy. Moreover, the very first experiments in this direction were conducted back in the USSR – in 1971.

The biochemical effect of silver ions allows to preserve the affected organ and its functions as much as possible. At the same time, the therapy is combined with any other type of treatment and does not have the standard side effects of antitumor drugs.

The effect of drugs with silver ions, including those developed in Johannesburg, is based on artificially induced apoptosis. Cancer cells grow more intensively and divide more often than normal ones, so they need more energy. Silver affects the mitochondria, as a result of which the cell dies from exhaustion. It is very important that tissue necrosis does not occur: such a dying process has a special name – apoptosis. The cell breaks up into fragments, which are absorbed by phagocytes and neighboring cells in an hour or two. As a result, damaged, but morphologically healthy tissue remains in place of cancer cells.

South African scientists tested the developed drugs on rats and tissues of human cancer cells in the laboratory.

Professor Marianne Cronje compares their effectiveness with the standard in oncology cisplatin (Cisplatin), but it requires ten times less dosage. The results were obtained on breast cancer and melanoma cells – a very dangerous type of tumor, a cure for which many scientists are developing.


The created complex not only allows you to reduce the dose of the drug by an order of magnitude, but also works more selectively than standard platinum-based drugs. As a result, much fewer healthy cells die. Side effects, such as damage to the immune system, are also significantly reduced. The University of Johannesburg continues to study silver thiocyanate complexes.

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