Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Test Breakthrough Could See Cancer Diagnosed In Minutes

Test Breakthrough Could See Cancer Diagnosed In Minutes

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".

The test described in Nature Communications exploits the differences between the DNA in cancerous and healthy cells to allow for a quick, early diagnosis.

Researchers have always been looking for a commonality among cancers to develop a diagnostic tool that could apply across all types.

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

Using transmission electron microscopy (a high-resolution microscope), we saw that cancerous DNA fragments folded into three-dimensional structures in water.

Abu Sina, Research Fellow, The University of Queensland; Laura G. Carrascosa, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland, and Matt Trau, Professor, The University of Queensland.

This change is particularly evident in the distribution pattern of a tiny molecule called a methyl group, which decorates the DNA. The test however can detect only the presence of the cancer and not the site of the cancer, stage of the cancer or the type of the cancer.

Cancer cells in their early stages have certain DNA signatures, the team noted that make them unique. But if DNA from healthy cells is added, the DNA binds to the particles differently, and turns the water blue.

The researchers were surprised to find the marker appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined, as well as in people with prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lymphoma.

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.

Researchers have developed a test that could be used to diagnose all cancers.

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The discovery was made by a medical research team in Queensland.

"Even for breast cancer, there are a dozen types, so we thought there would be different tests for different types of cancer".

These instantly change color depending on whether the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present.

"That absolutely stunned us", Professor Trau said.

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

This electrochemical method is highly sensitive and could also eventually be used as a diagnostic tool.

The new diagnostic test demonstrated an accuracy of up to 90 percent when tested on 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA, according to the researchers.

It will be some years before it can be used in clinics.

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

Trau added: "We certainly don't know yet whether it's the Holy Grail or not for all cancer diagnostics".

"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 of cancer and as an accessible and low-cost technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", Trau added.

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