10-minute cancer test? Australian scientists say they have it

Queensland

Queensland

In an cheap and simple test uses a fluid that changes color to identify the presence of malignant cells in any place of the body and gives results in less than 10 minutes.

This change is particularly evident in the distribution pattern of a tiny molecule called a methyl group, which decorates the DNA. These 3D nanostructures could then be separated when they stick to solid surfaces, like gold.

The test hinges on a unique DNA signature that appears to be found in all cancers, discovered by a team of scientists at the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

It's been used only to detect breast, prostate, bowel and lymphoma cancers, but they're confident the results can be replicated with other types of the disease.

So far we have tested more than 200 tissue and blood samples, with 90 percent accuracy.

The 10-minute test, announced in a study published by Nature on Tuesday, can determine whether a tumour is present in the human body by identifying a unique DNA nanostructure that is common to all types of cancer. They further claimed that this test is likely to make cancer diagnosis more accessible and affordable. It detects a simple physical event, a color change or an electrochemical signal, that occurs when cancer-reprogrammed DNA clumps around gold nanoparticles.

If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test can not detect what type or how advanced the disease is.

Professor Matt Trau Dr. Abu Sina and Doctor Laura Carrascosa
Professor Matt Trau Dr. Abu Sina and Doctor Laura Carrascosa

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.

Dr. Sina said this "simple test" could be used by a primary care physician.

"Usually, the approach to find cancer markers ... is to look at the sequence of DNA", Professor Trau said. 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.

The paper went on to describe how methylscape differences were exploited to develop simple and highly sensitive and selective electrochemical or colorimetric one-step assays for the detection of cancer.

"This happens in one drop of fluid, ' said Professor Matt Trau, one of the study's researchers, adding that researchers are still unsure if the test will emerge as the "holy grail" for cancer diagnostics".

"It is universal? We don't know until it's tested - it's impossible to know".

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-priced 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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