Researchers develop quick test for detecting cancer

Article based on inputs by Shahid Kazi

The researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia, have developed a quick test that can detect all types of cancer from blood or biopsy tissues within minutes. The test is a result of a discovery of a unique DNA nanostructure that appears to be common to all cancers.

This test is a great achievement as it had always been difficult to find a simple signature that was distinct from healthy cells and common to all cancers.

“In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome, but the genomes of cancer cells are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations,” Laura Carrascosa, a professor at University of Queensland.

“This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma,” said Abu Sina, from University of Queensland.

“The levels and patterns of tiny molecules called methyl groups that decorate DNA are altered dramatically by cancer — these methyl groups are key for cells to control which genes are turned on and off,” said Sina.

Researchers developed a tool that could look at these pattern changes at the whole genome level within minutes.

“In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome, but the genomes of cancer cells are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations,” Laura Carrascosa, a professor at University of Queensland.

“We designed a simple test using gold nanoparticles that instantly change colour to determine if the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present,” said Matt Trau, a professor a University of Queensland.

He said cancer cells released their DNA into blood plasma when they died.