Australian researchers develop 10-minute cancer test

Australian researchers develop 10-minute cancer test

Sina and his colleagues discovered that tiny molecules known as methyl groups spread throughout healthy cells.

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Relatively low-priced and simple testing was made possible due to the team's discovery of cancer DNA and normal DNA sticking to metal surfaces in very different ways, allowing development of a test which can distinguish between healthy cells and those that are cancerous, even from tiny traces of DNA that find their way into the bloodstream.

It is hoped that the new test will eventually be performed at the same time as routine blood tests, such as a cholesterol check - or even using a mobile phone app. The researchers dubbed this the cancer "methylscape", and they observed it in every type of breast cancer they studied, as well as in other cancer types, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lymphoma.

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.

Currently, the researchers are working with the university's commercialization company, UniQuest, to develop and license the technology; they plan to assess its use in detecting different cancer types across all stages from different bodily fluids as well as in gauging responses to treatment.

To test for cancer today, doctors must collect a tissue biopsy from a patient's suspected tumour.

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According to scientists at the University of Queensland, the test works by using DNA samples to determine which cells are malignant and which ones are healthy. "This is just a way of getting early detection".

The test they've developed involves extracting purified DNA from blood or tissue and then adding it to a gold particle solution to see how well it binds.

Cancer blood tests became possible after scientists realised the importance of DNA released when cancer cells die, which is carried in the bloodstream.

The test has 90 per cent sensitivity, which means that it would be able to trace cancerous elements in 90 out of 100 cases. When the DNA from cancers cells was added, the water retains its color.

To understand how the test works, Dr. Sina says to think of DNA as a Christmas tree, and the methyl groups on its surface as the ornaments on the tree.

"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 affordable technology that does not require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".

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