Medical researchers from Australia released a potential bombshell breakthrough in cancer research this week - outlining in a scientific journal how they have developed a cheap and simple blood test that can detect most if not all types of cancer within 10 minutes.
Professor Trau said the next stage of the research was to conduct more clinical testing.
Senior researcher Matt Trau said it had been hard to find a "simple marker" that would distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones.
When circulating tumor DNA fragments are placed in water, they begin to fold into 3D shapes different than DNA from healthy cells-driven by the dense clusters of methyl groups found along DNA molecules that have been reprogrammed by cancer.
"We designed a simple test using gold nanoparticles that instantly change color to determine if the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present", said Matt Trau, a professor of chemistry at the University of Queensland and deputy director and co-founder of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.
The new method looks for differences in the genetic code of cancerous and healthy cells, the newspaper said. In cancer cells, this patterning is hijacked so that only genes that help the cancer grow are switched on.
"In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome, but the genomes of cancer cells are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations".
So the researchers focused on DNA that circulates in the bloodstream after cancer cells die and release their cargo. Though made of gold, the particles turn the water pink.
Previous research has shown that the pattern of DNA methylation in cancer cells differs from that in healthy cells. These complex structures depending upon the epigenetic pattern would then stick to gold nanoparticles used for the test.
This small test could be a big deal for cancer diagnosis in upcoming years, because it enables researchers to non-invasively detect cancer in blood and tissue.
"We certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics, but it looks really interesting", he said.
To test for cancer today, doctors must collect a tissue biopsy from a patient's suspected tumour.
Since cancer DNA has higher affinity to gold, it provides a higher relative electrochemical current signal in comparison to normal DNA. Trau explained that they relied on epigenetics and found that there were changes in the DNA that could control the functions of the cells.
The new diagnostic test demonstrated an accuracy of up to 90 percent when tested on 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA, according to the researchers.
"This test could be done in combination with other simple tests, and become a powerful diagnostic tool that could not just say that you have cancer, but also the type and stage", said Carrascosa. "Further clinical studies are required to evaluate the full clinic potential of the method".