The test, which has been performed with 90% accuracy on 200 samples of different types of cancers and healthy cells, is now at experimental stage and results require further validation through clinical trials before it can be made commercially available.
This year, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the United States announced they'd developed a blood test, called CancerSEEK, that screens for eight common cancer types. Delayed diagnosis is a big problem in cancer cure in India, say doctors. Specifically, cancer DNA has clusters of methyl groups at specific locations and nearly no methylation elsewhere, while normal DNA's methyl groups are more evenly spread out across the entire genome.
Co-researcher Abu Sina said the findings represented a "significant discovery" that could be a "game changer" for cancer detection. The researchers dubbed this the cancer "methylscape", and they observed it in every type of breast cancer they studied, as well as in other cancer types, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lymphoma.
Taking advantage of this, the researchers designed a test that uses gold nanoparticles.More news: Chinese embassy in Ottawa demands release of Huawei exec arrested in Vancouver
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Cancer alters the DNA of healthy cells, particularly in the distribution of molecules known as methyl groups, and the test detects this altered patterning when placed in a solution such as water.
The Guardian reported: "The test has a sensitivity of about 90%, meaning it would detect about 90 in 100 cases of cancer". Like healthy cells, cancer cells are always in the process of dying and renewing.
"This happens in one drop of fluid, ' said Professor Matt Trau, one of the study's researchers, adding that researchers are still unsure if the test will emerge as the "holy grail" for cancer diagnostics". This allowed them to develop a test that distinguishes between healthy cells and cancerous ones, even from the tiny traces of DNA that find their way into the bloodstream. These complex structures depending upon the epigenetic pattern would then stick to gold nanoparticles used for the test. Mr Eccles of Otago University suggested thinking of DNA as beads on a string when visualising how the test works.
"It looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as an accessible and cheap technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", he said. "Further clinical studies are required to evaluate the full clinic potential of the method".