Scientists develop 'holy grail' blood test that detects cancer in 10 minutes

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The researchers found that in healthy cells, methyl groups are spread out across the genome.

"So we were very excited about an easy way of catching these circulating free cancer DNA signatures in blood", he said.

Now researchers have discovered that patterns of molecules attached to DNA, which control which genes are switched on and off, look different on cancer cells.

The result was a simple and fast test that could detect cancer in just 10 minutes, according to the study, published today (Dec. 4) in the journal Nature Communications.

Trau explained: "It seems to be a general feature for all cancer".

Taking advantage of this, the researchers designed a test that uses gold nanoparticles.

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

If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test can not detect what type or how advanced the disease is.

If you think of a cell as a hard drive, then the new findings suggest the disease needs certain genetic programs, or "apps", in order to run.

The team used cancerous DNA molecules and placed it in a chemical solution that let it to fold in complex 3D structures.

It turns out these structures stick to gold, so when cancerous DNA is put into a solution with gold nanoparticles, it attaches to them and instantly changes the colour of solution.

Ged Brady, of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said: "This approach represents an exciting step forward in detecting tumour DNA in blood samples and opens up the possibility of a generalised blood-based test to detect cancer. You can detect it by eye, it's as simple as that". These signatures are gold-hungry, which makes them possible to identify with a simple color-change test. Trials are still in the initial stages and it has only been tested on breast, bowel, prostate, and lymphoma cancers but the researchers say it could have the ability to spot any type of cancer with up to 90 percent accuracy.

The research was funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the researchers are now working with the University of Queensland's commercialisation company UniQuest to further develop the technology.

"If it's very sensitive, we could use it for early diagnosis of cancer ... especially for cancers where there is no screening paradigm, like ovarian and pancreatic", she said.

While further research and development is still underway, the procedure is expected to open new corollaries of screening methods.

"It is universal? We don't know until it's tested - it's impossible to know". Researchers have been looking for a less invasive diagnostic test that can detect cancers at an earlier stage.

Co-author Professor Matt Trau, from the University of Queensland, said: 'We certainly don't know yet whether it's the Holy Grail for all cancer diagnostics, but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as a very accessible and low-priced technology'.

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