Thanks to the discovery of certain nano-signatures, researchers from the University of Queensland can now reveal if a person has any form of cancer with only a quick and painless procedure. The new approach could make screening not only cheaper but also widely available.
“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 Dr. Abu Sina, one of the project leaders. “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”.
While it is still being developed, the test has proven to be up to 90% accurate.
“We designed a simple test using gold nanoparticles that instantly change colour to determine if the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present. Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a breakthrough that has enabled an entirely new approach to detect cancer non-invasively in any tissue type including blood”.
Even though they might have uncovered what seems to be in their words “the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics”, the team is trying to stay reasonable and somewhat limit expectations. Regardless, the diagnosing technology is expected to evolve quite rapidly, leading to inexpensive and portable detection devices that could possibly even see integration with mobile phones.
In less developed countries, availability and cost are two major issues preventing people from getting cancer screenings. This approach would solve these problems and allow a greater number of people to get tested, eventually leading to improved outcomes.