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. Sign up today to get biotech news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go. However, the genome of a cancer cell is essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations.
According to the research published in "Nature Communications", the test relies on a discovery made by the Queensland team that molecules in cancer DNA called methylgroups appear different compared to those in normal DNA. Scientists could distinguish normal DNA from cancer DNA by looking for a colour change in the gold particle solution that was visible to the naked eye within a few minutes. She said the test could serve as a screening tool to inform doctors that cancer is present in the patient's body, and then a subsequent test is required using other methods to identify the stage and type of cancer.
Dr Carrascosa said that the test had been trialled on 200 tissue samples, detecting cancer with up to 90 per cent accuracy.
Scientists have developed a universal cancer detection test that traces infectious presence in the bloodstream, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
So, rather than focus on the methylation itself, the researchers in the new study looked at what the methylation did to the overall structure and chemical properties of the cancer DNA.
They, therefore, chose to develop an assay, which uses gold nanoparticles that immediately change color when these nanostructures are present.
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Elin Gray, a senior cancer researcher at Edith Cowan University, said the research was exciting piece of work that offered "a lot of potential".
Professor Trau said the next stage of the research was to conduct more clinical testing.
The test is offering new hope that all types of the disease can be spotted early when treatment is the most effective, the newspaper said.
Our test also uses circulating cancer DNA but involves a different detection method.
The team noticed that in cancer cells, methyl groups were clustered at certain positions on the genome - a stark contrast to healthy cells where the groups are dispersed throughout. The only way to find out if there are unsafe cells in our bodies is by running periodically tests and going to see the doctor as soon as we are experiencing unusual health issues.
The team does not go as far as to say that this will be the ultimate cancer diagnostic but the technology behind it is low-cost and does not require complex equipment like DNA sequencing so, while the team is humble about the results of their research, we truly want to give them a round of applause regardless.