Can this rapid test revolutionize cancer diagnostics?
A novel blood or tissue test can diagnose cancer in just ten minutes. It is based on a newly discovered DNA structure that appears to be present in all cancers. The test quickly and easily detects whether these structures are present in the blood or in the tissue. The cancer test was recently presented by an Australian research team.
Researchers from the University of Queensland developed a new method for diagnosing cancer. The special thing is that it is a quick test that starts on all cancer diseases. The team around Dr. Abu Sina, dr. Laura Carrascosa and Professor Matt Trau discovered a unique nanostructure in DNA that seems to be shared by all types of cancer. The presence of this structure indicates a disease. The research results have recently been published in the renowned journal ” Nature Communications “.
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Breakthrough in cancer diagnosis
So far, the diagnosis of cancer is a complicated matter, as each type of cancer has its own signature. Thus, most forms of cancer also require a special diagnostic method. This complicates the early detection of tumor diseases, which, however, is immensely important for the healing process. Now researchers have found a simple signature that differs from healthy cells and is common in all cancers.
A structure that unites all forms of cancer
“This unique DNA signature has appeared in every type of cancer we studied – including breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and lymph node cancer, ” Dr. Abu Sina in a press release on the study results. Here are the tiny methyl groups that depend on the DNA. According to Sina, these groups change drastically due to the presence of cancer.
How cancer manifests in the genome
“In healthy cells, these methyl groups are distributed throughout the genome,” explains Drs. Carrascosa. On the other hand, the genome of cancer cells shows an intense accumulation of these methyl groups in very specific places. The research group has now developed a tool for cancer diagnostics that can reveal these pattern changes in the methyl groups within minutes.
How gold contributes to cancer diagnosis
Professor Trau explains how the test works: The grouping of methyl groups, which indicate cancer, leads to a unique three-dimensional folding of a nanostructure. This structure will easily adhere to certain surfaces. According to Trau, gold has a perfect surface, to which the special structures prefer to adhere. “We have developed a simple test with gold nanoparticles that immediately change color to determine whether 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present,” Professor Trau summarizes the research findings.
Cancer cells release their DNA in the blood
The research group further explains that cancer cells release their DNA in blood plasma when they die. The blood test with the gold particles captures this released cancer DNA. “Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed completely different 3D nanostructures than normal circulating DNA was a breakthrough that provides a whole new approach to diagnosing cancer in every type of tissue, including the blood,” concludes the professor.
Cheap, mobile and accurate
“This has led to the development of a cost-effective and mobile sensing device that could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool for cancer,” Trau says. Maybe the device can even be controlled via a smartphone. So far, tests on 200 human cancer specimens showed 90% accuracy in diagnosis.
The holy grail of cancer diagnostics?
“We do not yet know if it is the holy grail for all cancer diagnoses,” emphasizes the professor. But the discovery offers a simple and universal cancer marker, recognizable by low-cost technology that does not even require complicated labware to detect. Currently, the University of Queensland is looking for a suitable partner to develop and launch the blood test.