New test tracking cancer nano-signatures points to easier diagnoses

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-05 10:27:52|Editor: Li Xia
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SYDNEY, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers on Wednesday said they have developed a quick and easy test to detect cancer from blood or biopsy tissue, pointing to new approaches to patient diagnoses through simple devices like mobile phones.

The University of Queensland team "discovered a unique DNA nanostructure that appears to be common to all cancers," according to a statement.

"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 researcher Dr Abu Sina.

"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."

The new test involves a tool that is able to help analyze the pattern changes at the whole genome level within minutes, according to the researchers.

The technology has proved to be up to 90 percent accurate in tests involving 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA, according to the researchers. Their study was published in scientific journal Nature Communications.

The findings mean that "inexpensive and portable detection devices" could eventually be tapped as diagnostic tools, "possibly with a mobile phone," said the team's Professor Matt Trau.

"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 inexpensive technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing," he said.