Groundbreaking 10- minute cancer test developed by scientists

Henrietta Strickland
December 5, 2018

The breakthrough could lead to much earlier detection and increase the chance that treatment works because it could be started before traditional symptoms develop.

Ged Brady, of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said: "This approach represents an exciting step forward in detecting tumour DNA in blood samples and opens up the possibility of a generalised blood-based test to detect cancer".

Corresponding author Professor Matt Trau, from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, in Australia, reckons it may be the "holy grail" of cancer diagnostics.

So, rather than focus on the methylation itself, the researchers in the new study looked at what the methylation did to the overall structure and chemical properties of the cancer DNA.

Scientists have developed a universal cancer test that can detect traces of the disease in a patient's bloodstream.

In experiments, the test distinguished tumors from healthy cells with up to 90 percent accuracy.

The technique can also be used on tissue biopsies. Instead, they are now just one step in the process.

The new method from the University of Queensland looks for differences in the genetic code of cancerous and healthy cells. These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead affect how cells "read" genes. They then showed that the patterns had a dramatic impact on the DNA's chemistry, making normal and cancer DNA behave very differently in water.

Senior researcher Matt Trau said it had been hard to find a "simple marker" that would distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones.

But on the genomes of cancer cells, methyl groups were positioned in intense clusters at specific locations.

This change is particularly evident in the distribution pattern of a tiny molecule called a methyl group, which decorates the DNA.

"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.

We discovered that cancerous DNA has a strong affinity towards gold, which means it strongly binds to the gold particles.

These instantly change color depending on whether the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present. "This is a huge discovery that no one has grasped before", said Carrascosa.

"It's just a simple blood test that you can see with a naked eye", said Professor Trau.

"This led to the creation of affordable and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone".

The test has a sensitivity of about 90 per cent, meaning it would detect about 90 in 100 cases of cancer, with 10 per cent false positives.

Sina said: "It works for tissue-derived genomic DNA and blood-derived circulating free DNA".

"This new discovery could be a game-changer in the field of point of care cancer diagnostics".

Although not yet ideal, the researchers said it is a promising start and will only get better with time.

The test has yet to be conducted on humans, and clinical trials are needed before we know for sure if it can be used in the clinic.

"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.

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