Australian researchers develop 10-minute cancer test

Higher accuracy in a test means that it produces fewer false positives

Higher accuracy in a test means that it produces fewer false positives

"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".

Our research, published in the journal Nature Communications, has found that cancer DNA forms a unique structure when placed in water.

"You can detect it by eye - it's as simple as that", study senior author Matt Trau, a professor and senior group leader at the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said in a statement. It is also responsible for turning genes on and off.

These markers consist of chemical tags known as methyl groups. This modification prevents certain genes from being expressed.

When they compared the pattern of methyl tags, or "methylscape", of cancer DNA to that of healthy cells, the team found that they were very different.

According to Market Watch's Jacob Passy, the test is one of several recently touted as groundbreaking diagnostic tools.

So, rather than focus on the methylation itself, the researchers in the new study looked at what the methylation did to the overall structure and chemical properties of the cancer DNA. The solution caused cancer cells to fold into three-dimensional nanostructures that could easily break apart with a solid substance like gold. They then showed that the patterns had a dramatic impact on the DNA's chemistry, making normal and cancer DNA behave very differently in water.

So, the researchers developed a test that exploits this ability of cancer DNA to stick to gold.

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In the next stage of experiments the suspect's DNA was placed in water with gold nanoparticles, colored pink.

The idea of using circulating free DNA as a diagnostic tool for cancer is not new.

The researchers said that the tests conducted on 200 tissues and blood samples were able to detect the cancer cells with 90 percent accuracy. The 10-minute test will be put to large clinical trials before it can be used on prospective patients.

He said cancer cells released their DNA into blood plasma when they died. Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org seconds this sentiment, explaining that false alarms and imprecise results that simply mark the presence of cancer lead to more tests, including radiation and biopsies, as well as needless anxiety. In an interview with CNN's Euan McKirdy, study co-author Laura Carrascosa adds that the test's speed and simplicity could make it particularly beneficial for those living in rural or underdeveloped areas.

In its current form, the test would be less applicable as a screening test, given that it can not detect types of cancer, Ohm told But if the technique is further developed, perhaps the most immediate potential application would be monitoring existing cancer patients for disease recurrence, she said.

"We certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics", study co-author Matt Trau says in a statement, "but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as an accessible and cheap technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".

The technology behind the test is "very accessible and low-cost", he adds, and it "does not require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".

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