Blood test that uses tiny bits of GOLD could diagnose cancer05/12/2018
Blood test that uses tiny bits of GOLD to detect cell changes could diagnose cancer in just 10 minutes
- Tiny fragments of gold can be used to detect remains of cancer cells in the body
- Researchers found cells for breast and prostate cancer have individual signature
- These unique molecule clusters fold up into structures which like to stick to gold
A blood test could help to diagnose cancer within just ten minutes.
Tiny fragments of gold can be used to detect the remains of cancer cells in the body, avoiding the need for a biopsy.
Researchers found cells for breast, prostate and breast cancer have a unique ‘signature’ – a pattern of molecules on DNA.
Helpfully, these molecule clusters fold up into structures which like to stick to gold so can be tested for by using the precious metal.
Tiny fragments of gold can be used to detect the remains of cancer cells in the body, avoiding the need for a biopsy (file photo)
The test, which can be done using a drop of blood, cannot tell what kind of cancer someone has or how far it has progressed.
But it is the latest step as scientists compete to find blood tests which can diagnose cancer and spare people painful biopsies to remove parts of their organs or skin and check the tissue for tumours.
Lead author Dr Abu Ali Ibn Sina, from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Personalised Nanomedicine, said: ‘This discovery could be a game-changer in point of care cancer diagnostics.’
Cancer blood tests became possible after scientists realised the importance of DNA released when cancer cells die, which is carried in the bloodstream.
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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.
Instead of being evenly spread, as in normal cells, they form clusters which are released into the bloodstream, where they can be picked up by gold.
The gold nanoparticles were contained in a solution which turned from a reddish colour to blue if healthy cells were detected but stayed the same colour in the presence of cancer cells.
Co-author Professor Matt Trau, from the University of Queensland, said: ‘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 a very accessible and inexpensive technology.’
Researchers found cells for prostate and breast cancer have a unique ‘signature’ which fold up into structures which like to stick to gold (file photo)
The DNA can be found in blood and tissue taken from biopsies, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Communications.
It could eventually be used to test for cancer using a mobile phone and has been tested on 200 samples of cancers and healthy cells, reaching an accuracy of up to 90 per cent.
But Paul Pharoah, professor of cancer epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said the results were ‘too preliminary to be exciting’.
He said: ‘The test is promising but it really needs to be applied from some carefully collected and characterised samples to be able to judge its potential usefulness as a diagnostic test.’
Dr Ged Brady, from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said: ‘Further clinical studies are required to evaluate the full clinic potential of the method.’
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