Scientists develop 10-minute test for cancer

Maricruz Casares
Diciembre 7, 2018

This cheap and simple test uses a color-changing fluid to reveal the presence of malignant cells anywhere in the human body and also provides results in less than 10 minutes.

Being that cancer is a very complicated disease and has different signatures, it's hard to identify just one that happens to be very distinct from the healthy cells but otherwise common to all cancers. The technology for reading electrochemical signals is readily available, she says, and paired with a smartphone could be adapted to screen DNA affected by cancer.

The next step for the test will be validating it with tests on more cancer patients "to make sure that it actually stands up", followed by clinical trials that could take years, he said.

The team conducted a series of tests that can confirm the pattern of methyl groups in lymphoma, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer. "It seems to be a general feature for all cancer". Trau explained that they relied on epigenetics and found that there were changes in the DNA that could control the functions of the cells.

"But, it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as an accessible and low-cost technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", he said. These groups act as switches that switch the genes on and off and are called epigenomes.

The new study focused on the "epigenome", or chemical modifications to DNA that turn genes "on" or "off".

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

He said: "Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern".

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

Do you have cancer or not?

The newly developed analysis can detect if there are any cells which could develop cancer and it can do that fast and by using only a drop of the patient's blood.

One question posed by Di Carlo: Do results depend on how much DNA is added - especially since cancer cells have more DNA?

"When you have a blue colour on the solution, it means you're safe, you have no cancer", he said.

The team tested the test on 200 samples of cancer cells and found that the test was accurate in 90 percent cases.

Although not precise enough to pinpoint locations, stage, or size of a tumour it would give a swift answer to whether the patient has cancer or not within a few minutes, when combined with other tests this could become a powerful diagnostic tool to determine type, location and stage.

The quick and simple test sees DNA extracted from a tissue sample before it is mixed with water, to which gold nanoparticles are added.

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