Wednesday, 20 March, 2019


Cancer breakthrough as scientists develop 'game-changing' 10 minute test

A blood test Modal Trigger Shutterstock
Patty Aguilar | 08 December, 2018, 07:33

Scientists developed a so-called "universal cancer test" that can detect traces of the disease in the bloodstream of a patient.

Current detection of cancer requires a tissue biopsy - a surgical procedure to collect tissue from the patient's tumour.

The next step for the team is to stage clinical studies into how early cancer can be detected, and whether the test can be used to gauge the effectiveness of treatment. The Guardian details more info about how this test is conducted, so make sure to give the article a look. Researchers have been looking for a less invasive diagnostic test that can detect cancers at an earlier stage.

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

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.

A "universal fingerprint" has been found in the DNA of common cancers that could one day enable a diagnosis to be made with a simple ten-minute blood test.

This unique signature-which the scientists dubbed the cancer "methylscape", for methylation landscape-appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined and appeared in other forms of cancer, too, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and lymphoma. Specifically, cancer DNA has clusters of methyl groups at specific locations and nearly no methylation elsewhere, while normal DNA's methyl groups are more evenly spread out across the entire genome.

This change is particularly evident in the distribution pattern of a tiny molecule called a methyl group, which decorates the DNA.

"This led to the creation of cheap and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone".

These patterns are key to cell function because they determine whether genes are activated or deactivated at any given time. "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". In contrast, normal DNA folds in a somewhat different way, which does not result in such a strong affinity for gold, the researchers said.

It could eventually be used to test for cancer using a mobile phone and has been tested on 200 samples of cancers and healthy cells, reaching an accuracy of up to 90 per cent.

The team does not go as far as to say that this will be the ultimate cancer diagnostic but the technology behind it is low-cost and does not require complex equipment like DNA sequencing so, while the team is humble about the results of their research, we truly want to give them a round of applause regardless.

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