An incredible new test has been developed by scientists which can detect cancer in just minutes, raising hopes of early diagnosis and more effective treatment.
Researchers from the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology designed the simple and inexpensive test which can detect cancer in any tissue type with results in just 10 minutes.
The study, published on Wednesday in the Nature Communications journal, focused on differences in the genetic code of cancerous and healthy cells after researchers discovered a consistent DNA marker across several types of cancer they examined.
The team invented the technology around changes in chemical patterns on the DNA of cancer cells, which they described to the Courier Mail as like finding different decorations on Christmas trees.
“The tree is the DNA. Normal cells tend to have decorations that cover the entire tree,” Dr Laura Carrascosa said. “When cancer happens, the tree loses most of its decoration. The baubles that are left tend to cluster only on some parts of the tree.”
The test, which is still in its early stages as the team search for a commercial partner, has so far been trialled on 200 tissue samples and has detected cancer with up to 90 per cent accuracy.
The researchers explained that they developed the technology after observing that different chemical patterns on DNA altered its ability to interact with metals, such as gold.
The quick and simple test sees DNA extracted from a tissue sample before it is mixed with water, to which gold nanoparticles are added. Researchers then watch for a reaction which would change the colour of the water.
If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test cannot detect what type or how advanced the disease is. However if the water changes to blue, the test suggest you’re cancer free.
“It would be a very initial screening test to tell people something is not quite right,” Dr Abu Sina told the Courier Mail. “This could be done in conjunction with other tests and the combined information may give us a lot of ideas of where the cancer is and the stage.
“There is a lot of potential. This new discovery could be a game-changer. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a promising start.”