In a major breakthrough, scientists have developed a universal cancer detection test that can detect all types of cancer from blood or biopsy tissues within minutes.
Notably, each cancer type has different genetic and other features. But, the test developed by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia is based on a unique DNA signature that appears to be common across cancer types when placed in water. The structure was found to be the same in DNA from samples of breast, prostate and bowel cancers, as well as lymphoma, reported IFLScience.
“This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma,” said Abu Sina, from University of Queensland.”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.”
For the test, Sina and her team compared the epigenetic patterns on the genomes of cancer cells to those of healthy cells, specifically focusing on patterns of methyl groups. It was found that in cancer cells, methyl groups, which are usually dispersed throughout along the whole of the DNA in healthy cells, were clustered at certain positions on the genome.
While the test is still in development, it draws on a radical new approach to cancer detection that could make cancer screening a simple procedure for doctors. The 10-minute test will be put to large clinical trials before it can be used on prospective patients.
The researchers found the test had a 90 percent accuracy rate in detecting cancerous cells in more than 200 tissue and blood samples.
More details about the cancer detection test and how the scientists developed it have been published in the journal Nature Communications.