10-Minute Cancer Test: How It Works

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What’s the key to beating cancer? You hear it all the time: early detection.

Everyone wants to know as early as possible if they have cancer, but you can’t exactly pee on a stick and watch the color change pink or blue to find out… yet.

A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shares that researchers in Australia have done just that—created an easy, accessible, and quick cancer test that actually turns pink or blue. The test takes 10 minutes and has a 90 percent accuracy rate. Such a test could mean earlier detection for a host of different cancer types, especially for people with few resources.

Photo: YouTube/CBC News

The science

Researchers from the University of Queensland found that cancer forms a unique DNA structure when placed in water. The structure is present in every type of cancer the team has tested: breast, prostate, colorectal, and lymphoma. By determining whether or not that structure is present, doctors can determine if someone has cancer without having to order a biopsy.

Professor Matt Trau, one of the lead researchers, said, “Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a breakthrough that has enabled an entirely new approach to detect cancer non-invasively in any tissue type including blood.”

The team hopes that their test will become part of getting a regular checkup.

Photo: YouTube/CBC News

How it works

For the test, researchers used a water-based solution combined with gold nanoparticles. When DNA is added to the solution, the unique structure that cancer forms in water binds to the gold particles and turns the water pink. If the DNA is not cancerous, the water solution stays blue. It’s as simple as that, and results only take a few minutes to see. So far, researchers have tested over 200 samples of blood and tissue.

The test would be a first step in the diagnosis process as currently it can’t determine the type or degree of cancer someone has.

Photo: YouTube/CBC News

Next Steps

So far, the test has not been used on humans and will need to go through clinical trials before it becomes available to the general public.

But researchers have big dreams for the test. Not only could it potentially make cancer screening part of a regular medical checkup, but it could someday be used with a smartphone app, meaning it would be well-suited for use in areas with low resources. Eventually the test may also work on bodily fluids other than blood, and it could even help gauge the effectiveness of cancer treatment already in progress.

Check out the video to see how the test works!

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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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