Currently, the researchers are working with the university's commercialization company, UniQuest, to develop and license the technology; they plan to assess its use in detecting different cancer types across all stages from different bodily fluids as well as in gauging responses to treatment.
Researchers have discovered a curious difference between the DNA from cancer cells and that from healthy cells, and this finding could lead to a new blood test for cancer.
Although the test is still in development, it uses a radically new approach to the detection of cancer, which can make screening for cancer a simple procedure. Indeed, this test is so convenient and affordable that in the not-too-distant future we could all be carrying around our own personal cancer detector - on our cell phones. Researchers said the test could be used as an initial check for cancers wherein doctors could follow up positive results.
Tiny fragments of gold can be used to detect the remains of cancer cells in the body, avoiding the need for a biopsy.
And so, Sina and colleagues compared the epigenetic patterns on the genomes of cancer cells to those of healthy cells, specifically focusing on patterns of methyl groups.
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"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", Sina said in the press release. Though made of gold, the particles turn the water pink.
"This led to the creation of low-cost and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone", he added. If DNA from cancer cells is then added, it sticks to the nanoparticles in such a way that the water retains its original colour. In contrast, normal DNA folds in a somewhat different way, which does not result in such a strong affinity for gold, the researchers said.
"But it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as a very accessible and cheap technology that does not require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".
The research has been supported by a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. As of 2018, there are more than 200 types of cancer.
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'.