Researchers from the University of Queensland have developed a simple 10-minute test that can detect cancer cells much sooner than the current methods used for its diagnosis.
The researchers involved in this revolutionary discovery revealed that cancer cells alter their DNA structure when placed in water. This test is an alternate and less invasive technique to detect the presence of the structure in all body tissues, even blood.
The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
How Does It Work?
Scientists explain that cancer modifies the DNA of robust cells, especially the methyl group of molecules that are significantly altered in cancer patients. This test helps in detection of this change in the pattern when placed in a solution of water.
"Researchers have long been looking for a commonality among cancers to develop a diagnostic tool that could apply across all types," wrote Matt Trau and his research associates, Abu Sina and Laura Carrascosa, in an article for The Conversation.
"Using transmission electron microscopy (a high-resolution microscope), we saw that cancerous DNA fragments folded into three-dimensional structures in water. These were different to what we saw with normal tissue DNA in the water."
The Next Step
The researchers said that the tests conducted on 200 tissues and blood samples were able to detect the cancer cells with 90 percent accuracy. Even though it has been used for the diagnosis of breast, prostate, bowel, and lymphoma cancers, they are positive that the results can also help detect other diseases.
After this discovery, the researchers claim that the next step involves performing other clinical studies that can determine how soon is cancer detectable and whether this test can make the treatment more effective.
"The advantage of this method, it is so simple - it's almost equipment-free. You can do it with very low resources, explained Dr. Laura Carrascosa, one of the researchers. "There's another possibility that it can be used to monitor for relapses. We haven't tested that yet, but it is a potential."
Carrascosa also added that if proved, their technique can help with early diagnosis of cancer in underdeveloped areas.
Researchers are working with UniQuest, UQ's commercialization company, to enhance the technology and license with a business partner.