A study published in Nature indicates that a 10-minute test can detect the presence of cancer cells throughout the body. Researchers from the University of Queensland discovered a unique DNA nanostructure that may be common across cancer types, thus serving as a universal cancer biomarker.
Cancer alters the DNA of healthy cells, particularly in the distribution of methyl groups. This test detects these altered patterns when placed in a solution such as water.
Wonderful news. We’re just about (I think? Doubtless someone will correct me if not!) to become the first UK NHS lab to share all our anonymised variant data with Clinvar (IG approval last week, long slog!) – fantastic resource saving and improving lives worldwide. #OpenData https://t.co/SI4Fb2H9mY
— Ian Berry (@LaughingGenome) December 5, 2018
“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,” the authors noted in a press release. The test uses gold particles that bind with DNA affected by cancer and change color to alert researchers that cancer DNA are present.
Interesting article making the news: Epigenetically reprogrammed methylation landscape drives the DNA self-assembly and serves as a universal cancer biomarker | Nature Communications https://t.co/apIr3nxfyE
— John Campbell (@Synthon61) December 5, 2018
The test has not been conducted in humans nor in large clinical trials. However, the researchers tested more than 200 tissue and blood samples, and the test detected cancerous cells with 90% accuracy. The test has been used in breast cancer, prostate cancer, bowel cancer, and lymphoma, but the researchers believe it will be useful in other cancers. Test analysis takes 10 minutes or less and requires minimal sample preparation and small DNA input, according to the researchers. They also say the device is portable and inexpensive.
— Progress in Preventive Medicine (@ProgPrevMed) December 4, 2018
The researchers plan to further evaluate the test in clinical studies, as well as look into the possibility of using different bodily fluids to detect different cancer types.