Uni­ver­sal 10-minute cancer test in sight

Daily Messenger - - National -

IS­LAM­ABAD: Sci­en­tists have cre­ated an ex­per­i­men­tal test that can de­tect cancer in less than 10 min­utes. The test uses a DNA fea­ture that seems to be com­mon to all types of cancer and does not oc­cur in healthy tis­sue.

A team at the Univer­sity of Queens­land in Aus­tralia has dis­cov­ered that DNA frag­ments from cancer cells adopt a unique struc­ture in wa­ter.

The re­searchers un­cov­ered the same "DNA sig­na­ture" in sam­ples of breast, prostate, and bowel cancer tis­sue as well as in lym­phoma cells.

From these re­sults, they de­vel­oped a test that can de­tect the ap­par­ently uni­ver­sal cancer DNA sig­na­ture in less than 10 min­utes. They also demon­strated that the test was up to 90 per­cent ac­cu­rate over 200 sam­ples of tis­sue and blood.

Higher ac­cu­racy in a test means that it pro­duces fewer false pos­i­tives, which are re­sults that sug­gest that cancer is present when it is not.

The jour­nal Na­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tions has now pub­lished a study pa­per about the test and how the sci­en­tists de­vel­oped it.

Should it prove ef­fec­tive in hu­man tri­als, the test could mark the end of a long search for a sin­gle di­ag­nos­tic tool that works for all types of cancer.

"We cer­tainly don’t know yet," says se­nior study au­thor Matt Trau, who is a pro­fes­sor of chem­istry, "whether it’s the Holy Grail or not for all cancer di­ag­nos­tics, but it looks re­ally in­ter­est­ing as an in­cred­i­bly sim­ple uni­ver­sal marker of cancer."

The tech­nol­ogy be­hind the test is "very ac­ces­si­ble and in­ex­pen­sive," he adds, and it "does not re­quire com­pli­cated lab-based equip­ment like DNA se­quenc­ing."

The sci­en­tists in­ves­ti­gated the DNA that cells shed when they die. This "cir­cu­lat­ing free DNA" is al­ways present in tis­sues and blood be­cause cells die and re­new all the time.

The idea of us­ing cir­cu­lat­ing free DNA as a di­ag­nos­tic tool for cancer is not new. Sci­en­tists have been look­ing for a cancer sig­na­ture in this DNA for a while.

In­stead of fo­cus­ing on the DNA it­self, the team de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate the pat­tern of the at­tached epi­ge­netic mark­ers.

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