Researchers from the University of Queensland just developed a new approach to expedite the detection of not just one cancer, but all of its kind.
The test has a sensitivity of about 90%, and this means that it would be able to detect about 90 cases of cancer from 100. Researchers said the test could be used as an initial check for cancers wherein doctors could follow up positive results.
Professor Matt Trau, revealed that finding that cancerous DNA molecule formed an entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a ground-breaking invention that could now entirely form a new non-invasive cancer diagnosis approach that can be used in any tissues including blood cells.
Cancer alters the DNA of healthy cells, particularly in the distribution of molecules known as methyl groups, and the test detects this altered patterning when placed in a solution such as water.
It appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined and other forms of the disease including prostate and bowel cancer, as well as the blood cancer lymphoma.
The quick and simple test sees DNA extracted from a tissue sample before it is mixed with water, to which gold nanoparticles are added. These complex structures depending upon the epigenetic pattern would then stick to gold nanoparticles used for the test.
"We certainly don't know yet whether it's the Holy Grail or not for all cancer diagnostics", Trau stated, "but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as a very accessible and low-priced technology that does not require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".
"You don't expect all tumors to have the same methylation pattern because there's so many different ways that cancer can develop", Di Carlo said.
The researchers' work was supported by a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Cancer blood tests became possible after scientists realised the importance of DNA released when cancer cells die, which is carried in the bloodstream. "Further clinical studies are required to evaluate the full clinic potential of the method".