It’s a universal test and can spot traces of cancer: Australian researchers

Health Wire Desk

Researchers in Australia have developed a test that can find traces of cancer cells in any tissue of the human body in just 10 minutes, according a newly published study.

The procedure which uses gold and colour changing fluid to find the affected area anywhere in the body without using expensive equipment and medicines was developed by the University of Queensland, Australia

The cheap diagnostic test is expected to revolutionise the cancer treatment in low-income countries including India because it’s considered as the biggest killer in the country.

According to researchers at the University’s Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), the test can prove as convenient and affordable as it uses a unique DNA signature that appears to be found in all cancers as per the team. Their findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

“This test can find every type of cancer from different tissues including blood or a biopsy sample using a simple signature common to all cancers,” they said.

“It has been difficult to find a simple signature common to all cancers, yet distinct from healthy cells because cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease,” one of the team members, Abu Sina said in a statement.

According to him, the team noticed that in cancer cells, methyl groups make bunches at specific positions on the genome, something which make them distinct from healthy cells where the groups are isolated.

“This ‘unique’ signature was studied in all types of breast cancer looked at as well as various other types of cancer, including bowel, prostate, and lymphoma cancers,” Sina said.

Matt Trau, a professor at AIBN who led the research, describes it as like a genetic program or app that the cancerous cell needs for functioning.

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

He also pointed out an interesting finding saying that these DNA signatures are ‘gold-hungry’ which means they are attracted to Gold and can be found with a simple color-change test.

“Trials are still in the initial stages and it has only been tested on breast, bowel, prostate, and lymphoma cancers but the researchers say it could have the ability to spot any type of cancer with up to 90 percent accuracy,” Trau said.

He said it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, as a very accessible and inexpensive technology that does not require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing.

PROCESS OF TEST

The 10-minute test is expected to be put on clinical trials before used on humans.

The test uses free DNA of the human body to detect the malignant area.

These DNA fragments present in biopsy sample or circulated through blood stream carry unique cancer signature. It makes possible for the doctors to identify cancer even if its source is not known.

The test uses a water-based solution containing gold nanoparticles, which turns the liquid into a reddish color. When cancerous cells come in contact with the solution, the methyl groups cause the DNA fragments to fold up into 3D structures.

These are attracted to the gold nanoparticles and the solution remains the reddish color. In contrast, when healthy cells are added, the DNA and gold nanoparticles interact differently and the solution turns blue.

While the test might not be able to tell you exactly where the cancer is located, a positive result could spur further testing to identify the source. Plus it is cheap and quick, offering up a result in less than 10 minutes.