New minutes-long cancer test could revolutionize diagnosis, study says

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Frederick Foresight, Dec 6, 2018.


    A cancer diagnosis is daunting enough without the stressful, time-consuming and often invasive tests that lead up to it.

    But a new quick and easy test that can detect cancer from blood or tissue can revolutionize the process, says a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

    Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia found a DNA nanostructure that seems to be common to all cancers, and a new test they developed would identify that structure in under 10 minutes.

    “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,” Dr. Abu Sina, one of the researchers, said in a statement.

    “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 revolutionary testing method can look at pattern changes within minutes.

    “In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome, but the genomes of cancer cells are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations,” said Dr. Laura Carrascosa, another researcher.

    The doctors discovered that when they placed intense clusters of methyl groups in a solution, this caused DNA fragments to fold into three-dimensional nanostructures that could be separated by sticking to solid surfaces like gold.

    “We designed a simple test using gold nanoparticles that instantly change color to determine if the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present,” researcher Matt Trau stated.

    The new test has been up to 90 percent accurate in tests of 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA.

    “Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a breakthrough that has enabled an entirely new approach to detect cancer non-invasively in any tissue type including blood,” Trau said.

    “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.”