A team of scientists in Australia have developed a simple blood test which can detect cancer DNA in 10 minutes based on a unique DNA epigenetic signature. Epigenetics refer to the external modifications of DNA causing the genes to turn off and on. One example of epigenetic change is “DNA Methylation” where attachment of a methyl group to specific portions of genes causes the genes to get turned off. In cancer cells, there are areas in DNA where there are clusters of methyl groups causing a unique signature. Gold nanoparticles have a high affinity for these regions.

Scientists in this study used change in the color of gold nanoparticles when they bind to methyl groups, to identify these unique signatures in the cancer DNA which is released in the blood when cancer cells break down. They claim that the test can detect different forms of cancers just from a drop of blood with 90% accuracy.

Below you will find the opinion/positioning from Oncologist/Palliative Care Expert Dr. Adil Akhtar.   

Please let me know if you are interested in speaking with Dr. Akhtar in more detail on this topic or other cancer related topics.  

Hype or Reality

“It’s too early to say if this test will be useful in clinically. The important points to note:

  • Its lower cost may make cancer diagnosis more accessible and affordable
  • It’s a simple test to detect cancer DNA, it does not replace the detailed tissue examination by the pathologists 
  • The commonly used next generation tumor DNA sequencing may take a longer time, but it detects specific mutations and other changes in the tumor DNA which are then used as targets to develop new therapies
  • This test may have a role to measure response to the treatment or to detect minimal residual disease after the completion of cancer treatment
  • False positive tests where the test is positive although the patient does not have cancer can be a major problem
  • False negative result may lead the doctors to believe that the cancer is completely treated when there may still be minimal disease left
  • Further studies need to be done to validate these results.”