Blood test to detect cancer within just 10 minutes developed by scientists

Henrietta Strickland
December 5, 2018

Researchers found cells for breast, prostate and breast cancer have a unique "signature" - a pattern of molecules on DNA.

The test can use "circulating free DNA", or DNA released into the blood from cancer or healthy cells.

And because the same changes occur in all cancerous cells, the test should work on all cancer types, the team believes.

"This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma", he said.

"You can detect it by eye - it's as simple as that", study senior author Matt Trau, a professor and senior group leader at the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said in a statement.

"It seems to be a general feature for all cancer".

Almost every cell in a person's body has the same DNA, but studies have found that cancer's progression causes this DNA to undergo considerable reprogramming.

"(And could become) an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer. that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment".

This change is particularly evident in the distribution pattern of a tiny molecule called a methyl group, which decorates the DNA. While the DNA inside normal cells has methyl groups dotted all over it, the DNA inside cancer cells is largely bare, with methyl groups found only in small clusters at specific locations.

Researchers in Australia have developed a 10-minute test that can detect the presence of cancer cells anywhere in the human body, according to a newly published study.

The development was made possible after they discovered that placing the cancerous DNA in a solution caused it to fold up into 3D structures.

It turns out these structures stick to gold, so when cancerous DNA is put into a solution with gold nanoparticles, it attaches to them and instantly changes the colour of solution. It's also unclear exactly how high the levels of cancer DNA need to be in order for the test to work, which would affect how early in the course of the disease the test could be used, the researchers said.

So far we have tested more than 200 tissue and blood samples, with 90 percent accuracy.

"You can compare that with some of our frontline cancer detection techniques", he said.

"It would be a very initial screening test to tell people something is not quite right", Dr Abu Sina told the Courier Mail.

But Paul Pharoah, professor of cancer epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said the results were "too preliminary to be exciting".

Co-author Dr. Laura Carrascosa said: "There's been a big hunt to find whether there is some distinct DNA signature that is just in the cancer and not in the rest of the body".

"If it's very sensitive, we could use it for early diagnosis of cancer ... especially for cancers where there is no screening paradigm, like ovarian and pancreatic", she said.

Therese Becker, a molecular biologist from the University of New South Wales, agreed the research was "interesting" and required further investigation.

"We certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics, but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker for cancer, and as an accessible and cheap technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", Trau said.

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