A "universal fingerprint" has been found in the DNA of common cancers that could one day enable a diagnosis to be made with a simple ten-minute blood test.
If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test can not detect what type or how advanced the disease is.
According to Dr. Sina, each type of cancer has a different signature, and it can be hard to find a signature that's common to all cancers and different from healthy cells.
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.
It is created to detect cancer from blood or biopsy tissue by analysing methyl group changes at the genomic level.
Researchers found cells for breast, prostate and breast cancer have a unique "signature" - a pattern of molecules on DNA.
"We believe that this simple approach would potentially be a better alternative to the current techniques for cancer detection".
The test also works electrochemically by using flat gold electrodes and small amounts of purified DNA.
They add that the team is developing the test so that it could be used for screening of cancers especially in early stages. He said, "We never thought this would be possible, because cancer is so complicated". 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.
Although it is far too early to know how useful the discovery could be as a clinical tool, scientists said it was an exciting advance in the understanding of cancer.
The researchers found that in healthy cells, methyl groups are spread out across the genome. They are instructions that control the expressions of the genes. The gold particles change color depending on whether or not cancer DNA is present.
It appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined and other forms of the disease including prostate and bowel cancer, as well as the blood cancer lymphoma.
Prof Trau said the results "stunned" them and they realized that this was a "general feature for all cancer".
"It's just a simple blood test that you can see with a naked eye", said Professor Trau.
So far they've tested the new technology on 200 samples across different types of human cancers, and healthy cells.
"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", said Laura Carrascosa, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia.
"We certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as an accessible and affordable technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", Professor Trau said.
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