“This new discovery could be a game-changer in the field of point of care cancer diagnostics,” Dr. Abu Sina, a member of research team, said.
Cancer forms when mutations cause genes to alter the way cells function. That happens naturally when cells replicate or it can be caused by exposure to environmental factors like pollution or sunlight, according to the National Cancer Institute.
All cells — healthy or cancerous — constantly renew and die. That process releases tiny bits of DNA that circulate in the blood.
The Queensland scientists discovered that the DNA released by cancer cells sticks to metal differently than DNA from healthy cells, according to a report by the Guardian. The research results were published in the journal Nature Communications.
The DNA is put into water with gold nanoparticles. Even though it’s gold, the water looks pink. If cancer DNA is added, the water remains pink. If it’s healthy DNA, the water turns blue.
“This happens in one drop of fluid,” said chemistry professor Matt Trau, who led the research team. “You can detect it by eye, it’s as simple as that.”
The test has been used to detect breast, prostate and colon cancer and lymphoma. According to a news release from the university, the technology has been up to 90 percent accurate in tests involving 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA.
“Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern,” Trau said. “It seems to be a general feature for all cancer. It’s a startling discovery.”
The next step is to work toward clinical trials with patients who have a wider range of cancers than those that have been tested so far.
“A major advantage of this technique is that it is very cheap and extremely simple to do, so it could be adopted in the clinic quite easily,” Laura Carrascosa, another member of the Queensland team, told the Guardian.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University earlier this year announced they had developed a blood test to detect eight types of cancer, CNN reported. The test, called CancerSEEK, was shown to detect the presence of common tumors of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung and breast, the study found. The study’s authors said the next step is more research and widespread testing in patients.