Friday, 14 December, 2018

Test Breakthrough Could See Cancer Diagnosed In Minutes

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Gustavo Carr | 05 December, 2018, 18:12

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

If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test can not detect what type or how advanced the disease is. Researchers have been looking for a less invasive diagnostic test that can detect cancers at an earlier stage.

A "universal fingerprint" has been found in the DNA of common cancers that could one day enable a diagnosis to be made with a simple ten-minute blood test.

Matt Trau, one of the researchers, said that it was hard to find a "simple marker" that could differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells. "The test is sensitive enough to detect very low levels of cancer DNA in the sample", Carrascosa said.

While the test is still in development, it draws on a radical new approach to cancer detection that could make routine screening for the disease a simple procedure for doctors.

"Our technique could be a screening tool to inform clinicians that a patient may have a cancer, but they would require subsequent tests with other techniques to identify the cancer type and stage", Carrascosa said.

Prof Trau said the results "stunned" them and they realized that this was a "general feature for all cancer". These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead affect how cells "read" genes.

Healthy cells ensure they function properly by patterning their DNA with molecules called methyl groups. This modification prevents certain genes from being expressed. Among the cancer cells they noted that the methyl groups are in clusters at specific regions. They studied patterns of cancerous DNA and healthy DNA, finding that the latter is sticky against metal surfaces.

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When placed in solution, those intense clusters of methyl groups also caused cancer DNA fragments to fold up into three-dimensional nanostructures that really like to stick to gold.

"We never thought this would be possible, because cancer is so complicated", said Professor Trau, whose paper is published today in the journal Nature Communications.

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".

Currently, the test detects only the presence of cancer, not the type of cancer. If cancer DNA is present, the gold nanoparticles will turn a different color than if cancer DNA is not present. Scale bar denotes twenty nanometers (20 nm). However if the water changes to blue, the test suggest you're cancer free.

Researchers are working with UniQuest, UQ's commercialisation company, to further develop the technology and licence with a commercial partner.

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

Co-author Professor Matt Trau, from the University of Queensland, said: '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 a very accessible and affordable technology'.