A 'golden bullet' that will destroy breast cancer tumour cells is being developed by scientists from Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas.
Used with radiotherapy, the tiny shards of gold heat up and destroy the deadly cells that help tumours grow and ease their spread around the body.
When tested in mice, tiny pieces of silica, each thinner than a human hair, were coated in gold and injected into breast tumours.
High temperatures are known to damage the inside of cells, making them more vulnerable to radiation.
The combination treatment, which is known as hyperthermia, not only shrank the tumours but also cut the number of stem cells.
When the team conducted a similar experiment on tumours formed from human cells, the cancer stem cells proved more sensitive to radiation.
"Although the gold nanoshells still require further testing, hyperthermia treatments are already in clinical trials and radiation is a staple of cancer therapy," The Daily Mail quoted the journal Science Translational Medicine as reporting.
"This suggests the dual hyperthermia-radiation cancer therapy should be amenable to a clinical setting."