It’s being touted as the Holy Grail – a simple finger prick blood test that can detect cancers in their early stages and long before they show up in scans.
The revolutionary test is being developed by Australian scientists and could be widely available within the next five to 10 years.
Successful trials have been conducted on animals, and the Herald Sun is reporting that scientists are now working on adapting the test so it can be used to screen for all types of cancers.
Professor Justin Gooding, of the Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology, told the newspaper: “This method takes about half an hour and … it could be like a finger prick test, so it is pretty promising.
“We believe that our work is an important advance for developing liquid biopsies for early cancer detection, that is, before symptoms of the disease actually appear, and to monitor how well, or not, a treatment is working.”
The technique uses a sensor – gold-plated nano particles – to seek out and attach to cancer bio-markers in the blood.
Prof Gooding explained to physicsworld.com: “The sensor has a fast response time … since it makes use of an applied magnetic field to ‘bring back’ all the captured microRNAs (short ribose nucleic acids that increase in the blood in the presence of cancer) to the macro-electrode. It can be likened to a hunter-gatherer that is on a motorcycle rather on foot. When sent out to find ‘food’, it covers more territory, so collects more food and brings it back faster.
“The big thing is that we can detect much lower concentrations (of microRNAs) than most technologies.”
The Centre of Excellence was set up by the Federal Government Australian Research Council in 2014 to drive the development of vaccines and gene therapies.
A finger prick test is also being developed by US-based Celsee Diagnostics. It can detect bladder, skin, pancreas and liver cancers, but only at an advanced stage.
Are you excited by the advances in cancer research? Especially those where Australian scientists are leading the charge?