Groundbreaking 10- minute cancer test developed by scientists

Image 10 News First

Image 10 News First

The test has 90 per cent sensitivity, which means that it would be able to trace cancerous elements in 90 out of 100 cases.

But it is the latest step as scientists compete to find blood tests which can diagnose cancer and spare people painful biopsies to remove parts of their organs or skin and check the tissue for tumours.

"In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome, but the genomes of cancer cells are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations", Laura Carrascosa, a professor at University of Queensland.

And so, Sina and colleagues compared the epigenetic patterns on the genomes of cancer cells to those of healthy cells, specifically focusing on patterns of methyl groups.

Dr. Sina said this "simple test" could be used by a primary care physician.

"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.

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Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a breakthrough that has enabled an entirely new approach to detect cancer non-invasively in any tissue type including blood.

The researchers explained that they developed the technology after observing that different chemical patterns on DNA altered its ability to interact with metals, such as gold. Even better, the test works on circulating free DNA, molecular fragments that drift through easily obtained body fluids.

This unique signature-which the scientists dubbed the cancer "methylscape", for methylation landscape-appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined and appeared in other forms of cancer, too, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and lymphoma.

"We designed a simple test using gold nanoparticles that instantly change color to determine if the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present", said Matt Trau, a professor of chemistry at the University of Queensland and deputy director and co-founder of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. But if DNA from healthy cells is added, the DNA binds to the particles differently, and turns the water blue.

"With normal DNA, when you add it to the solution, it can not stabilize this solution, and when you add a small amount of salt, it changes the colour to blue", Dr. Sina explained. According to Trau, cancer cells released their DNA into blood plasma when they perished. Additionally, the research was supported by a National Breast Cancer Foundation grant to advance cancer diagnosis testing. "Further clinical studies are required to evaluate the full clinic potential of the method".

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