Medicine

This simple test could one day tell you if you have cancer

This simple test could one day tell you if you have cancer

Scientists could distinguish normal DNA from cancer DNA by looking for a colour change in the gold particle solution that was visible to the naked eye within a few minutes.

"Our technique could be a screening tool to inform clinicians that a patient may have a cancer, but they would require subsequent tests with other techniques to identify the cancer type and stage".

The newly developed analysis can detect if there are any cells which could develop cancer and it can do that fast and by using only a drop of the patient's blood. It detects a simple physical event, a color change or an electrochemical signal, that occurs when cancer-reprogrammed DNA clumps around gold nanoparticles.

The portable, low-cost test could help detect cancer far sooner than current methods, according to the authors of the study in the December 4 issue of Nature Communications.

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

This alters how DNA can be read, switching genes on or off. Methyl groups, essentially a carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms attached to it, play a role in switching genes on and off based on a number of factors, such as whether they're inherited from the mother or the father, various environmental cues, and, as some research is indicating, trauma and other stressors. The team found that methyl group clusters placed in a solution prompted cancer DNA fragments to fold into 3D nanostructures. The researchers called this methylation pattern the "methylation landscape", or "methylscape". What if you had cancer and you were one of the 10% whose true cancer was not detected?

"The early detection of cancer & the early detection of cancer recurrence are two areas where this test may find use, and where there is a strong need to move away from more expensive, less accurate and centralized systems such as mammography, PET, MRI, etc.", Trau went on to say.

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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.

Led by Matt Trau, a professor of chemistry at the University of Queensland, the researchers have run the test on 200 human cancer samples and healthy DNA.

Scientists worldwide have been working on ways to identify cancer earlier, as early detection is known to increase the success rate of therapeutic treatment and surgery.

He added that larger studies are needed to evaluate the accuracy of the test, as well as whether it could be useful for patients, compared with existing tests.

Trau explained: "It seems to be a general feature for all cancer". But she added that the study was "very proof of principle at this point".

The research has been supported by a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

The Guardian reported: "The test has a sensitivity of about 90%, meaning it would detect about 90 in 100 cases of cancer".