A Bangladeshi scientist and two other researchers have made a ground-breaking discovery in cancer testing by inventing a new method similar to a blood test.
However the new test will take time be commercially available as clinical trials are needed before it can be used in hospitals.
The researchers of the University of Queensland wrote the details of their research on the World Economic Forum (WEF) website after it was published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ on Tuesday 4 December.
Abu Ali Ibn Sina, who was a teacher at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet, Bangladesh, works as a research fellow at the University of Queensland under Professor Matt Trau.
The other researcher was Laura Carrascosa, a postdoctoral research fellow.
What is the new test?
The new discovery is based on a unique DNA signature that appears to be common across cancer types, the researchers wrote on the WEF website.
Each cancer type, be it bowel, testicular or breast, has different genetic features. Usually, a test that detects one cancer type may not work to identify another.
For many year researchers have been searching for a commonality among the variations of cancer to develop a diagnostic tool that could apply across all types.
The researchers wrote: “Our research has found that cancer DNA forms a unique structure when placed in water. The structure is the same in DNA from samples of breast, prostate and bowel cancers, as well as lymphoma.
“We used this discovery to develop a test that can identify the cancerous DNA in less than ten minutes”.
Why is it ground-breaking?
For this test to work properly the DNA must be pure a sample.
The researchers added: “So far we have tested more than 200 tissue and blood samples, with 90 percent accuracy. Accuracy is important to ensure there are fewer false positives – wrongly detecting cancer when there is none.
“The types of cancers we tested included breast, prostate, bowel and lymphoma. We have not yet tested other cancers, but because the methylation pattern is similar across all cancers it is likely the DNA will respond in the same way.”
It is certainly a promising start, though further analysis with more DNA samples is needed to prove its clinical use.
The next step is to do a large clinical study to understand how early cancer can be identified based on the DNA signature.
The researchers concluded: “We are assessing the possibility to detect different cancer types from different body fluids from early to later stages of cancer.
“We are also considering whether the test could help monitor treatment responses based on the abundance of DNA signatures in body fluid during treatment”.