Gold - Old Drug with New Potentials

Curr Med Chem. 2018;25(1):75-84. doi: 10.2174/0929867324666170330091438.


Background: Research into gold-based drugs for a range of human diseases has seen a revival in recent years. This article reviews the most important applications of gold products in different fields of human pathology. Au(I) and Au(III) compounds have been re-introduced in clinical practice for targeting the cellular components involved in the onset and progression of viral and parasitic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

Results: After some brief historical notes, this article takes into account the applications of gold compounds against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and also in tuberculosis and in rheumatoid arthritis treatment. The use of gold containing drugs in the cure of cancer are then considered, with special emphasis to the use of nanoparticles and to the photo-thermal cancer therapy. The use of colloidal gold in diagnostics, introduced in the last decade is widely discussed. As a last point a survey on the adverse effects and on the toxicity of the various gold derivatives in use in medicine is presented.

Conclusion: In this review, we described the surprisingly broad spectrum of possible uses of gold in diagnostics and in therapeutic approaches to multiple human diseases, ranging from degenerative to infectious diseases, and to cancer. In particular, gold nanoparticles appear as attractive elements in modern clinical medicine, combining high therapeutic properties, high selectivity in targeting cancer cells and low toxicity.

Keywords: Gold; cancer; colloidal gold; diagnostics; nanoparticles; rheumatoid arthritis; toxic effects; tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Gold / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Parasitic Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Gold