One Test to Diagnose Them All — Universal Cancer Test

Scientists develop 'holy grail' blood test that detects cancer in 10 minutes

Scientists develop 'holy grail' blood test that detects cancer in 10 minutes

"Even for breast cancer, there are a dozen types, so we thought there would be different tests for different types of cancer". It is based on a unique DNA signature that appears to be common across cancer types.

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

Each cancer type, whether it be breast or bowel cancer, has different genetic and other features.

"The test to detect cancerous cells can be performed in 10 minutes".

The researchers have dubbed it the cancer "methylscape" - for methylation landscape.

Chemistry Professor and research associate Matt Trau said, "We certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics, but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker for cancer, and as an accessible and affordable technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".

If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test can not detect what type or how advanced the disease is.

This small test could be a big deal for cancer diagnosis in upcoming years, because it enables researchers to non-invasively detect cancer in blood and tissue.

The team found that in the healthy cells these methyl groups are spread across the genome.

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.

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Cancer is caused by changes in DNA, which controls the way cells function. Altering this pattern is one of the ways cancer cells regulate their own proliferation.

He said: "Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern". Though made of gold, the particles turn the water pink.

Researchers discovered cancerous DNA reacts differently to normal DNA when mixed with metallic surfaces such as gold. "This could be done in conjunction with other tests and the combined information may give us a lot of ideas of where the cancer is and the stage".

It spots tiny amounts of DNA floating through vessels that could only have come from tumors and not from healthy cells.

The test also works for electrochemical detection - when the DNA is attached onto flat gold electrodes. If 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA exist, the gold nanoparticles will instantly change color.

It could eventually be used to test for cancer using a mobile phone and has been tested on 200 samples of cancers and healthy cells, reaching an accuracy of up to 90 per cent.

For this test to work properly the DNA must be pure.

It is based on a process known as epigenetics - the attachment of a chemical tag known as a methyl group to DNA. Large clinical trials would be need before it could be used on patients.

The testing was developed by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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