Now doctors use symptoms and a raft of tests and biopsies to determine if cancer is present which can sometimes take months. Matt Trau, one of the researchers, said that it was hard to find a "simple marker" that could differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells.
Now researchers have discovered that patterns of molecules attached to DNA, which control which genes are switched on and off, look different on cancer cells.
The test was developed after researchers from the University of Queensland found that cancer forms a unique DNA structure when placed in water.
He said: "Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern".
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CNN noted the test is yet to be used on humans. A universal cancer test would not be precise enough to pinpoint the location or size of a tumour, but would give doctors a swift answer to the question: does this patient have cancer?
It spots tiny amounts of DNA floating through vessels that could only have come from tumors and not from healthy cells.
Our test also uses circulating cancer DNA but involves a different detection method. 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.
The discovery of a unique DNA signature common to multiple cancers could one day revolutionise the way we diagnose cancer, particularly in its early stages, Australian researchers say.
Abu Sina, Research Fellow, The University of Queensland; Laura G. Carrascosa, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland, and Matt Trau, Professor, The University of Queensland.
So the researchers focused on DNA that circulates in the bloodstream after cancer cells die and release their cargo.
Tests in the lab showed that the scientists could distinguish normal DNA from cancer DNA by looking for a colour change in the gold particle solution that was visible to the naked eye within a few minutes.
Trau said: "This happens in one drop of fluid".
The test is offering new hope that all types of the disease can be spotted early when treatment is the most effective, the newspaper said. So far we have tested more than 200 tissue and blood samples, with 90 percent accuracy.
Mr Trau of Queensland University acknowledged yesterday that "we certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics".
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"We certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics, but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as an accessible and cheap technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing", Trau said in the press release.
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