Medical

Australian scientists develop '10-minute' cancer test

Australian scientists develop '10-minute' cancer test

Researchers found cells for breast, prostate and breast cancer have a unique "signature" - a pattern of molecules on DNA.

Professor Trau said the team discovered that intense clusters of methyl groups placed in a solution caused cancer DNA fragments to fold into unique three-dimensional nanostructures that could easily be separated by sticking to solid surfaces such as gold.

"The levels and patterns of tiny molecules called methyl groups that decorate DNA are altered dramatically by cancer - these methyl groups are key for cells to control which genes are turned on and off".

That's because the test is only accurate 90 per cent of the time - while it does not reveal where the cancer cells are located and how serious it is.

Senior researcher Matt Trau said it had been hard to find a "simple marker" that would distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones.

The team noticed that in cancer cells, methyl groups were clustered at certain positions on the genome - a stark contrast to healthy cells where the groups are dispersed throughout.

A ten-minute test for all kinds of cancer is on the horizon after scientists developed a way to detect traces of the disease in a patient's bloodstream. 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.

The researchers acknowledged that their test needs further study, "but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple "universal marker" of cancer", Trau said in the statement. The suspect DNA is added to water containing tiny gold nanoparticles.




Researchers have developed a test that could be used to diagnose all cancers. But if DNA from healthy cells is added, the DNA binds to the particles differently, and turns the water blue. It's also attractive "as a very accessible and low-cost technology that does not require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", he said.

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

The technique can also be used on tissue biopsies.

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.

The DNA in cancer cells can be riddled with mutations that drive the growth of a specific tumour, but these mutations tend to differ depending on the type of cancer. "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". This changes the colour of the solution containing the nanoparticles and this change can be detected with the "naked eye" said Trau.

"This test could be done in combination with other simple tests, and become a powerful diagnostic tool that could not just say that you have cancer, but also the type and stage", said Carrascosa.

The test can use "circulating free DNA", or DNA released into the blood from cancer or healthy cells. "Further clinical studies are required to evaluate the full clinic potential of the method".