Currently, tests to determine if there are cancer cells in a person take at least a week before getting results, but a new test for cancer diagnoses shows promise with results seen in ten minutes.
What is this test?
This test is based on a discovery by researchers at the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). What they discovered is a one-of-a-kind DNA signature that seems to be common to all types of cancer. They found this unique DNA in intense clusters of methyl groups in certain locations.
One of the researchers at AIBN, Professor Matt Trau, explained, “Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern. It seems to be a general feature for all cancer. It’s a startling discovery.” This discovery was followed by another showing that when these methyl clusters are inserted into a solution, the cancer DNA pieces fold into 3-dimensional nanostructures and, at that point, can stick to gold.
Once researchers found this, they created a test using gold nanoparticles that change color if 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present. “This happens in one drop of fluid. You can detect it by eye, it’s as simple as that,” revealed Professor Trau. This is basically the same technology as using strip indicators to test for pregnancy.
Cancer diagnoses benefits found so far:
• Works on all types of cancers tested to date
• Simple – no complicated and expensive lab equipment needed
• Fast – results in 10 minutes
• Portable – eventually could test via mobile phone
• Accuracy – as high as 90% in some cancers
Is there a downside?
This test is new. It is not perfect. Will it give too many false positive diagnoses? Does it truly identify all types of cancer – or were researchers just fortunate in which ones were tested? Only time will tell, but the future appears to be very promising.
What is the future?
This technology was tested on 200 samples using cells from various types of cancers as well as healthy cells, but a great deal more testing is needed before this is generally accepted and available.
The simplicity and affordability of this test could mean life or death for many. Researchers tested their discovery on multiple types of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma – all with good results. Hopefully it will soon be tested on asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma as a quick diagnosis could accelerate treatment.
Dr. Abu Sina, an AIBN researcher, said, ”It works for tissue derived genomic DNA and blood derived circulating free DNA. This new discovery could be a game-changer in the field of point of care cancer diagnostics.” That is the hope for all and a research worth watching.