New blood test could spot cancer cells more quickly

New blood test could spot cancer cells more quickly

Physicians believe that their method can be used to test for cancer using a mobile phone.

Dino Di Carlo, director of cancer nanotechnology at UCLA, told USA Today that the Australian research required further confirmation.

Joyce Ohm, an associate professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, agreed that the work is "an exciting potential advance" in looking for a general epigenetic biomarker for cancer. "It's a startling discovery".

Because cancer is such a slow-developing disease, Di Carlo said the study's detection time of 10 minutes, versus the normal wait time of one week, isn't necessarily a game-changer. The test can use "circulating free DNA", or DNA released into the blood from cancer or healthy cells.

The technique can also be used on tissue biopsies.

"The early detection of cancer & the early detection of cancer recurrence are two areas where this test may find use, and where there is a strong need to move away from more expensive, less accurate and centralized systems such as mammography, PET, MRI, etc.", Trau went on to say. Instead, they are now just one step in the process.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018, according to estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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The test described in Nature Communications exploits the differences between the DNA in cancerous and healthy cells to allow for a quick, early diagnosis.

Methylation are marks that indicate whether pieces of DNA should be read, Di Carlo said. This finding leads them to develop a test that could recognize between cancerous cells and healthy cells, even from tiny DNA traces that find their way into the bloodstream, the South China Morning reported. Researchers still maintain that the DNA is likely to respond in the same manner across other cancer samples.

One question posed by Di Carlo: Do results depend on how much DNA is added - especially since cancer cells have more DNA? In cancer cells, however, methyl groups only cluster in specific points. Approximately 70 per cent of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.

They found the DNA marker in every type of breast cancer they examined, and in other forms of cancer, including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma.

As part of their work, they discovered that when these methylscapes, in a solution, make cancer DNA fragments fold into three-dimensional nanostructures-and these nanostructures like to attach to gold.

While he can see a future where these tests could be commonplace, Mr Eccles said he thinks they will be used in conjunction with existing tests. If 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA exist, the gold nanoparticles will instantly change color.

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