There is a promising new universal test for cancer

There is a promising new universal test for cancer
Starting from a sample of blood or a tissue, it allows in a few minutes to discover the presence of the disease, the researchers say

 Dying tumor cells seen under a microscope (Wikimedia)

A group of researchers from the University of Queensland (Australia) has announced that they have developed a new test to quickly diagnose cancer, discovering whether a person is affected by the disease or not. The system works thanks to the presence of some particular traces in the DNA, which according to the researchers are common to most tumors. The test can be performed by analyzing a blood sample or a tissue removed from the patients, for the classic biopsies.

The results of the research have recently been published in Nature Communications and, although preliminary, are considered a good starting point for the development of new tumor diagnosis systems. The researchers started from the free circulating DNA (cfDNA): as happens with healthy cells, even the tumor cells, after some time, die and disintegrate, releasing their contents, including the DNA, into the surrounding environment, which then ends up in circulation in the body to be then disposed of. The traces of the cfDNA end up in the blood and other tissues, and can therefore be traced from the analysis.

In the next step, the researchers went in search of a common track in cancer cells of various kinds. They verified the presence of particular patterns in the molecules of healthy and tumor cells, responsible for the activation or absence of genes over time. The analysis allowed to identify particular groupings of molecules that constitute a sort of signature typical of tumor cells. Every piece of DNA involved in the production of cancer cells, the researchers write in their study, contains a very predictable pattern, necessary to make them work.

The researchers then tried to insert these groups of molecules into a solution, noting that the fragments of cancerous DNA tended to envelop themselves, in structures that very easily bind to gold molecules. Starting from a nanostructure that includes gold, the researchers have created a sort of litmus paper, which changes color depending on whether there are fragments of cancerous DNA. A drop of fluid is sufficient to perform the test with ease.

Abu Ali Ibn Sina et al., Nature Communications

The system developed by the researchers was tested on 200 different samples taken from tissues with as many forms of tumor or from healthy cells. The level of accuracy achieved in detecting the presence of cancer was 90 percent.

The test will still have to be tested to verify its reliability, but it could one day be the basis for faster, less invasive and above all economic diagnosis systems. However, the system can not replace more refined diagnostic solutions because it only works as an indicator to know whether or not you have a tumor, without providing information on its type and danger.


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