Medical Treatments

Cancer: Effective Measures to Counter a Deadly Disease

PGMs' role in the fight against cancer is twofold: as the active ingredient in chemotherapy drugs and in radio-active implants for radiation therapy (brachytherapy).

In the first of these, platinum compounds cisplatin, carboplatin and oxaliplatin have the unique quality of inhibiting the splitting and growth of cancerous cells. These compounds have been particularly successful in the treatment of testicular and ovarian cancers. More recently, palladium compounds have also been successfully tested.

In brachytherapy, implants are made of platinum with the active ingredient of iridium isotopes. These are placed directly into tumours, giving a high radiation dose to the tumour while reducing the effect on surrounding healthy tissue.

CarboPalladium-103, a radioactive isotope of palladium, is seeing promising applications in the treatment of prostate cancer. A newly emerging added area of research is potential use in the treatment of breast cancer. Here, still using the principles of brachytherapy, small seeds of Palladium-103, which releases very low doses of radiation over the course of two-months, are permanently implanted directly into the centre of the tumour. The procedure is done in an outpatient setting under local anaesthesia and the patient can go home after a few hours.

Rhodium foil has found its way into mammography x-ray machines.

Parkinson's Disease: Relief for Sufferers

It is estimated that four million people worldwide have Parkinson's disease, a neurological condition with a range of symptoms including essential tremor (shaking) and rigidity.

The latest advances in combating this condition are neural implants made of platinum and iridium that generate an electrical impulse which stimulates a targeted area of the brain and reduces the shaking and rigidity almost immediately.