Groundbreaking 10- minute cancer test developed by scientists

Blood sample with DNA illustration

Blood sample with DNA illustration

A new blood test will diagnose cancer in just ten minutes. In contrast, normal DNA folds in a somewhat different way, which does not result in such a strong affinity for gold, the researchers said. And-perhaps best of all-the test doesn't rely on fancy equipment such as a DNA sequencing instrument.

The gold nanoparticles were contained in a solution which turned from a reddish colour to blue if healthy cells were detected but stayed the same colour in the presence of cancer cells. The test is so simple and easy that it could be a natural for point-of-care diagnostics.

"This is a huge discovery that no-one has grasped before", said Laura Carrascosa, a researcher at the University of Queensland.

Cancer blood tests became possible after scientists realised the importance of DNA released when cancer cells die, which is carried in the bloodstream.

Healthy cells function properly by patterning their DNA with methyl molecules groups working like volume controls to silence genes not needed and turning up ones that are; cancer cells hijack this patterning so that only genes helping them to grow are switched on. Methyl groups, essentially a carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms attached to it, play a role in switching genes on and off based on a number of factors, such as whether they're inherited from the mother or the father, various environmental cues, and, as some research is indicating, trauma and other stressors.

In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome.

Normal DNA has a large number of methyl "marks" in the affected cells of such "labels" are very small and are located at specific sites.

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. Because cancer is uncommon, it is more important to prevent false diagnoses, he said.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications Dr Matt Trau, Professor of Chemistry, said: "Our approach enabled non-invasive cancer detection, i.e a blood test, in 10 min from plasma derived DNA samples with excellent specificity".

"We examine the effect of levels and genomic distribution of methylcytosines on the physicochemical properties of DNA to detect the methylscape biomarker", the authors wrote.

While further research and development is still underway, the procedure is expected to open new corollaries of screening methods. The test has a sensitivity of about 90%, meaning it would detect about 90 in 100 cases of cancer.

"It works for tissue-derived genomic DNA and blood-derived circulating free DNA", noted Abu Sina, a researcher in Dr. Trau's lab and a co-author of the current paper.