Australian researchers develop 10-minute cancer test

Blood sample with DNA illustration

Illustration of a blood sample containing a strand of DNA

While further research and development is still underway, the procedure is expected to open new corollaries of screening methods.

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.

"It seems to be a general feature for all cancer". "It's a startling discovery".

Australian researchers have developed a ground-breaking, 10-minute cancer test that might aid patient diagnosis in the future. He also used that hyped-inducing word "breakthrough" to describe his findings.

Now doctors use symptoms and a raft of tests and biopsies to determine if cancer is present which can sometimes take months. Instead, they are now just one step in the process. Survival rate for most cancers stagnates at 20% because a majority of the patients come when the disease is already in the advanced, or III and IV, stages.

The new method looks for differences in the genetic code of cancerous and healthy cells, the newspaper said.

Methylation are marks that indicate whether pieces of DNA should be read, Di Carlo said.

Therefore, doctors added gold nanoparticles in a special solution, which turns from a reddish color to blue if you discovered the healthy cells, but remains the same color in the presence of cancer cells.

The researchers believe the test is promising, but, unfortunately, it can be used on carefully selected and characterized samples in order to judge its potential usefulness as a diagnostic test.

One question posed by Di Carlo: Do results depend on how much DNA is added - especially since cancer cells have more DNA?

Healthy cells function properly by patterning their DNA with methyl molecules groups working like volume controls to silence genes not needed and turning up ones that are; cancer cells hijack this patterning so that only genes helping them to grow are switched on.

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Researchers have hunted for years to find a commonality across all cancers, a so-called "silver bullet" that ties them all together.

"This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma", said researcher Dr Abu Sina.

Helpfully, these molecule clusters fold up into structures which like to stick to gold so can be tested for by using the precious metal.

They, therefore, made a decision to develop an assay, which uses gold nanoparticles that immediately change color when these nanostructures are present.

Trau said: "This happens in one drop of fluid".

Do you have cancer or not?

"This led to the creation of low-cost and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone", he added.

The test, which is still in its early stages as the team search for a commercial partner, has so far been trialled on 200 tissue samples and has detected cancer with up to 90 per cent accuracy.

"So we were very excited about an easy way of catching these circulating free cancer DNA signatures in blood", he said.

Although the technique is not yet ideal, it represents a promising start and will only improve with time, concludes the team.

The scientists' bold hope is that the technology will become the "holy grail for all cancer diagnostics".

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