Blood test to detect cancer within just 10 minutes developed by scientists
06 December, 2018, 03:13 | Author: Lillian Steele
Cancer blood tests became possible after scientists realised the importance of DNA released when cancer cells die, which is carried in the bloodstream. This feature appears to be common to cancer DNA in general, regardless of the type of cancer, the researchers said. The researchers found the signature in multiple types of breast cancer as well as in prostate and colorectal cancer, and lymphoma.
"That absolutely stunned us", Professor Trau said. "It seems that to launch cancer, you have to run a series of genetic apps". Trau, M. (2018). Epigenetically reprogrammed methylation landscape drives the DNA self-assembly and serves as a universal cancer biomarker.
These distinct patterns of molecules control which genes are turned on and off at any given time and "decorate the DNA".
They discovered cancer cells' genome is essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations - instead of being spread evenly like in normal cells.
"Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern", he explained.
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. "You can detect it by eye, it's as simple as that".
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". He said that they initially believed that each cancer would need a separate test for detection.
"Our technique could be a screening tool to inform clinicians that a patient may have cancer, but they would require subsequent tests with other techniques to identify the cancer type and stage", Carrascosa said.
Researchers are working with UniQuest, UQ's commercialisation company, to further develop the technology and licence with a commercial partner.
It is hoped that the new test will eventually be performed at the same time as routine blood tests, such as a cholesterol check - or even using a mobile phone app.
Therese Becker, a molecular biologist from the University of New South Wales, agreed the research was "interesting" and required further investigation. "This could be done in conjunction with other tests and the combined information may give us a lot of ideas of where the cancer is and the stage".
"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 affordable technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", Trau added.
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