Scientists develop 'holy grail' blood test that detects cancer in 10 minutes

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The researchers developed a test which can detect cancer cells by picking up this epigenetic pattern in blood and biopsy tissue.

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.

According to Dr. Sina, each type of cancer has a different signature, and it can be hard to find a signature that's common to all cancers and different from healthy cells.

Almost every cell in a person's body has the same DNA, but studies have found that cancer's progression causes this DNA to undergo considerable reprogramming.

It is created to detect cancer from blood or biopsy tissue by analysing methyl group changes at the genomic level.

Researchers have discovered a curious difference between the DNA from cancer cells and that from healthy cells, and this finding could lead to a new blood test for cancer.

"You can compare that with some of our frontline cancer detection techniques", he said.

"Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern", he explained.

Taking advantage of this, the researchers designed a test that uses gold nanoparticles.

"The test is sensitive enough to detect very low levels of cancer DNA in the sample", Carrascosa said. This requires a tiny amount of purified DNA to be mixed with some drops of gold particle solution. For this test, he said, they looked at patterns of methyl groups over the DNA.

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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.

The discovery of a unique DNA signature common to multiple cancers could one day revolutionise the way we diagnose cancer, particularly in its early stages, Australian researchers say.

The position of these molecules forms part of the epigenome - a set of instructions that controls how genes are expressed.

These instantly change color depending on whether the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present.

Prof Trau said the results "stunned" them and they realized that this was a "general feature for all cancer".

Abu Sina, Research Fellow, The University of Queensland; Laura G. Carrascosa, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland, and Matt Trau, Professor, The University of Queensland.

"It's just a simple blood test that you can see with a naked eye", said Professor Trau.

It has shown to be up to 90% accurate in tests of 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA, they said, though it has not been tested in a clinical trial.

Trau added: "We certainly don't know yet whether it's the Holy Grail or not for all cancer diagnostics". "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 cheap technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", Trau said.

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