Scientists and researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia developed a test that can detect all types of cancer from blood and biopsy tissues in minutes. The researchers have discovered a unique DNA nanostructure that seems to be unique to all types of cancer. The disease besides being extremely complicated is variable as well; hence it is difficult to find a simple signature that can distinguish healthy cells from all cancer cells. "This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma," said Abu Sina, from the University of Queensland. He also adds, “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.”
The researchers have developed a tool that can take a look at the pattern changes at the whole genome level within minutes. Since long, researchers had been trying to find a common factor among cancer cells that can be easily detected with a diagnostic tool. The research has found out that when placed in water the cancer DNA forms a distinctive structure. And this structure is common in the DNAs from samples of breast, prostate and bowel cancers, as well as lymphoma.
This team of researchers found out that intense clusters of methyl groups placed in solution cause the cancer DNA fragments to fold into unique 3D nanostructures that can be easily separated by sticking to solid surfaces like gold.
“We designed a simple test using gold nanoparticles that instantly change colour to determine if the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present,” said Matt Trau, a professor at the University of Queensland. He said cancer cells released their DNA into blood plasma when they died. “So we were very excited about an easy way of catching these circulating free cancer DNA signatures in blood,”, “This led to the creation of inexpensive and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone,” he said.
This new testing technology has proved to be 90% accurate in tests that involve 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA.
Many more clinical trials are yet to be carried out before the test can be clinically implemented.