This simple test could one day tell you if you have cancer

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Researchers have developed a test that could be used to diagnose all cancers.

Co-author Dr. Abu Sina said: "Because cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease, it has been hard to find a simple signature common to all cancers, yet distinct from healthy cells".

Each cancer type, whether it be breast or bowel cancer, has different genetic and other features.

After a series of experiments, the scientists hit on the new test for cancer.

Scientists have developed a universal cancer test that can detect traces of the disease in a patient's bloodstream.

While the test is still in development, it draws on a radical new approach to cancer detection that could make routine screening for the disease a simple procedure for doctors.

Professor Trau said the next stage of the research was to conduct more clinical testing.

So the researchers focused on DNA that circulates in the bloodstream after cancer cells die and release their cargo.

Dr Gray, who studies the cancer biomarkers of melanoma, said more work was needed to determine if the test would be useful as a screening tool.

This alters how DNA can be read, switching genes on or off.

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. Though made of gold, the particles turn the water pink. This is because gold can affect molecular behaviour in a way that causes visible colour changes.

When placed in solution, those intense clusters of methyl groups also caused cancer DNA fragments to fold up into three-dimensional nanostructures that really like to stick to gold.

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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". This requires a tiny amount of purified DNA to be mixed with some drops of gold particle solution.

By simply observing the colour change, it is possible to identify the cancerous DNA with the naked eye within five minutes.

Since cancer DNA has higher affinity to gold, it provides a higher relative electrochemical current signal in comparison to normal DNA.

"This led to the creation of affordable and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone", said Professor Matt Trau, one of the lead researchers on the project.

For this test to work properly the DNA must be pure.

So far they've tested the new technology on 200 samples across different types of human cancers, and healthy cells.

And though this "methylscape" could serve as a biomarker for cancer, researchers didn't have a good way to detect it.

The researchers were surprised to find the marker appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined, as well as in people with prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lymphoma. We have not yet tested other cancers, but because the methylation pattern is similar across all cancers it is likely the DNA will respond in the same way.

It is a promising start, though further analysis with more samples is needed to prove its clinical use.

The discovery of a unique DNA signature common to multiple cancers could one day revolutionise the way we diagnose cancer, particularly in its early stages, Australian researchers say.

We are also considering whether the test could help monitor treatment responses based on the abundance of DNA signatures in body fluid during treatment.

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