Considering the current complicated and expensive procedure of detecting cancer and especially the delay associated with releasing the result, this new approach will make cancer detection and routine screening a simple procedure for doctors, medical experts said.
"A major advantage of this technique is that it is very cheap and extremely simple to do, so it could be adopted in the clinic quite easily", said Laura Carrascosa, a researcher at the University of Queensland.
If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test can not detect what type or how advanced the disease is.
The test once fully vetted through multiple clinical trial rounds can hence become the starting point for diagnosis as it could be conducted at most pathology labs and would answer the question: does this patient have cancer? It's also unclear exactly how high the levels of cancer DNA need to be in order for the test to work, which would affect how early in the course of the disease the test could be used, the researchers said.
Such a test has been devised by researchers from the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).
"Because cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease, it has been hard to find a simple signature common to all cancers, yet distinct from healthy cells".
"So we were very excited about an easy way of catching these circulating free cancer DNA signatures in blood", he said.
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It had been hard to find a simple signature that was distinct from healthy cells and common to all cancers.
Healthy cells ensure they function properly by patterning their DNA with molecules called methyl groups. While the DNA inside normal cells has methyl groups dotted all over it, the DNA inside cancer cells is largely bare, with methyl groups found only in small clusters at specific locations.
She said the technology hinged on an observation that differences in chemical patterns on DNA affected its ability to interact with metal surfaces, such as gold.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018, according to estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Their test involves extracting DNA from a tissue sample, mixing it with water, adding gold nanoparticles and then watching for a reaction.
The 10-minute test, announced in a study published by Nature on Tuesday, can determine whether a tumour is present in the human body by identifying a unique DNA nanostructure that is common to all types of cancer.