Can this rapid test revolutionize cancer diagnostics?
A new 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 tumors. The test detects quickly and easily if these structures are present in the blood or tissue. The cancer test was recently presented by an Australian research group.
Researchers at the University of Queensland have developed a new method to diagnose 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 results of the research were recently published in the famous journal "Nature Communications".
Breakthrough in cancer diagnosis
So far, the diagnosis of cancer is a complicated issue, since every type of cancer has its signature. Thus, many forms of cancer also require a special diagnostic method. This complicates the early diagnosis of cancer 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 all the cancers we've studied – including breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and lymph node cancer," Dr. Abu Sina in a press release on the results of the study. Here are the tiny methyl groups that depend on DNA. According to Sina, these groups change drastically due to the presence of cancer.
How cancer occurs in the genome
"In healthy cells, these methyl groups are distributed throughout the genome," explains Drs. Carrascosa. In the tumor cell genome, however, they show an intense accumulation of methyl groups in specific locations. The research team has now developed a tool for cancer diagnosis that can reveal these pattern changes in methyl groups within minutes.
How gold contributes to cancer diagnosis
Professor Trau explains how the test works: groupings of methyl groups, which are indicative of cancer, produce a unique three-dimensional bending in the nanostructure. This structure will easily adhere to certain surfaces. According to Trau, gold has a perfect surface, to which special structures prefer to adhere. "We have developed a simple test with gold nanoparticles that immediately change color to determine if there are 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA," summarizes the results of the research.
Cancer cells release their DNA into the blood
The research team also explains that cancer cells release their DNA into the blood plasma when they die. The blood test with the gold particles captures this carcinogenic DNA released. "Finding that cancerous DNA molecules have formed completely different 3D nanostructures than normal circulating DNA has been a breakthrough that allows a completely new approach to cancer diagnosis in every type of tissue, including blood", concludes the professor.
Economical, mobile and precise
"This has led to the development of an inexpensive mobile sensing device that could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool for cancer," says Trau. Perhaps the device can also be controlled via a smartphone. So far, tests on 200 human cancer samples have shown a 90% accuracy in diagnosis.
The Holy Grail of cancer diagnostics?
"We do not know yet 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 a low-cost technology that does not even require complicated labware to detect. Currently, the University of Queensland is looking for a suitable partner to further develop the blood test and bring it to market. (Vb)