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

Faith Castro
December 6, 2018

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

The test has a sensitivity of about 90 per cent, meaning it would detect about 90 in 100 cases of cancer, with 10 per cent false positives.

"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".

While he can see a future where these tests could be commonplace, Mr Eccles said he thinks they will be used in conjunction with existing tests.

Researchers discovered the DNA of cancer cells sticks strongly to nanoparticles of gold - providing a quick determination whether the disease is present, according to The Telegraph.

"Our approach also enabled non-invasive cancer detection, (i.e a blood test), in 10 (minutes) from plasma derived (circulating free) DNA samples with excellent specificity", researchers wrote in a report for Nature Communications. "We find that DNA polymeric behavior is strongly affected by differential patterning of methylcytosine, leading to fundamental differences in DNA solvation and DNA-gold affinity between cancerous and normal genomes". Researchers then watch for a reaction which would change the colour of the water.

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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 low-priced technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing". Matt Trau, a professor at AIBN who led the research, describes it as like a genetic program or app that the cancerous cell needs in order to function.

The next step for the test will be validating it with tests on more cancer patients "to make sure that it actually stands up", followed by clinical trials that could take years, he said.

"Because cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease, it has been hard to find a simple signature common to all cancers, yet distinct from healthy cells", Abu Sina, a researcher at the Institute, said in a statement. "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". When they die, they essentially explode and release their cargo, including DNA, which then circulates.

"With normal DNA, when you add it to the solution, it can not stabilize this solution, and when you add a small amount of salt, it changes the colour to blue", Dr. Sina explained.

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

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