Researchers have developed a test to detect traces of cancer from within patients' blood, the Guardian reports. The test, which it notes is still in development, only takes about 10 minutes, but cannot determine what type of cancer is present.
"Our technique could be a screening tool to inform clinicians that a patient may have a cancer, but they would require subsequent tests with other techniques to identify the cancer type and stage," the University of Queensland's Laura Carrascosa tells the Guardian.
The test Carrascosa and her colleagues developed relies on detecting the epigenetic reprogramming that occurs in cancer cells. Epigenetic reprogramming of cancer genomes affects their physicochemical properties in comparison to normal genomic DNA, including how they act in solution and interact with metals like gold. This formed the basis of their test, which changes color if cancer is detected, as the researchers report in Nature Communications this week.
To assess its potential clinical applications, the researchers examined 72 epigenomes from 54 breast, eight prostate, and 10 lymphoma cancer samples and 31 epigenomes from the same tissue types obtained from healthy individuals to find their approach had high specificity for detecting cancer.
"The test is promising, but it really needs to be applied from some carefully collected and characterized samples in order to be able to judge its potential usefulness as a diagnostic test," adds the University of Cambridge's Paul Pharoah, who was not involved in the work, at the Telegraph.