New tool diagnoses cancer in 10 minutes

New tool diagnoses cancer in 10 minutes

Researchers have hunted for years to find a commonality across all cancers, a so-called "silver bullet" that ties them all together.

While the test is still in development, it draws on a radical new approach to cancer detection that could make routine screening for the disease a simple procedure for doctors.

The research has been supported by a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The accuracy of the results is around 90%, according to Nature Communications.

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. Cancer cells, like normal cells, are always dividing and dying.

The test uses gold particles, which bind with cancer-affected DNA and "can affect molecular behavior in a way that causes visible color changes", it added.

Now doctors use symptoms and a raft of tests and biopsies to determine if cancer is present which can sometimes take months.

The researchers also found that the samples of molecules attached to DNA that control which genes are turned on and off, look different on cancer cells. These groups act like beacons that turn our DNA genes on and off.

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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.

Researchers found cells for breast, prostate and breast cancer have a unique "signature" - a pattern of molecules on DNA.

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

Prof Trau said the results "stunned" them and they realized that this was a "general feature for all cancer". "It's a startling discovery". The researchers designed an assay which uses gold nanoparticles that instantly change colour depending on whether or not these 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present. It can be performed on a single drop of blood.

The process takes only minutes, and experiments were 90 percent accurate in over 200 human cancer samples. Survival rate for most cancers stagnates at 20% because a majority of the patients come when the disease is already in the advanced, or III and IV, stages.

"This test could be done in combination with other simple tests, and become a powerful diagnostic tool that could not just say that you have cancer, but also the type and stage", said Carrascosa.

Dino Di Carlo, director of cancer nanotechnology at UCLA, told USA Today that the Australian research required further confirmation. "In cancer progressions, these balls move away and then you will have a few clusters only on that tree".

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