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Caffeine mixed with gold may have potent effects on cancer, study says.Christopher Cornelius

A combination of caffeine and gold can fight cancer without any significant side effects, according to a new study.

A small amount of gold combined with caffeine acts as a potent anti-cancer agent and can kill cancer cells without hurting normal cells, says the study published in the American Chemical Society journal Inorganic Chemistry.

Caffeine or gold in isolation are not the solution, the researchers, led by Benoît Bertrand and Angela Casini, say.

Caffeine has a lot of negative effects on the body if taken in large quantities. Besides, caffeine could kill healthy cells too at high levels when it starts to have desirable effect on cancerous cells.

Like caffeine, gold too can also destroy tumour cells, but at the same time kill normal cells.

To overcome the limitation, scientists combined the two elements in different proportions to test if the new caffeine-gold compounds would stop cancer cells without posing a threat to normal cells.

They made a series of seven new compounds in a laboratory. Test tube experiments were carried out to ascertain the efficacy of the new compounds on cancer cells. Then, to test their toxicity, the compounds were tested on diseased organs removed from patients.

The study found that one of the compounds in the series effectively killed human ovarian cancer cells without damaging surrounding healthy cells.

Also, the compound potently targeted DNA architecture known as "G-quadruplex", which is associated with cancer.

Scientists hope that the new gold-based caffeine compounds will one day be prescribed as powerful yet harmless and non-toxic anticancer drugs.