Wouldn’t it be nice to detect cancer from readily available samples such as blood or urine? Well, we might not need to wait any longer. Research teams from CNRS, Inserm, Paris Descartes and Strasbourg universities are developing a technique that can detect cancer in biological fluids such as blood and urine samples.
The team reports that the technique is ultra-sensitive. It can detect minute traces of tumoral DNA from microscopic droplets of biological fluids collected from cancer patients. If proven effective, soon we will have a very powerful diagnostic tool to detect cancer.
They claim that the technique was already successful on detecting genes linked to colon cancers and leukemia. The next move is likely a clinical study to test its sensitivity and efficacy in cancer detection.
They explain that in theory the contents of a tumoral cell are released into the extracellular environment as the tumoral cells die. Thus, there is a high possibility of detecting DNA in biological fluids such as blood, lymph, and urine. An ultra-sensitive test to detect DNA could therefore prove useful in this regard. They claim that with this technique a DNA is capable of detecting small amounts of DNA in these samples that no other current DNA analysis methods can.
Perhaps the most important breakthrough in case the technique becomes available is the detection of cancer at a very early stage. It has the capacity to detect "cancer as soon as the first cancerous cells die".1
How it works
The initial step is to distribute the extracted DNA from biological sample into millions of droplets at a size so small that each could contain only a single target gene. Next, the DNA is amplified through molecular multiplication methods while fluorescent molecules specific to every gene interacts with the DNA. Then, the droplets are guided one at a time into the microscopic grooves for the subsequent laser analysis. Accordingly, a droplet that emits red fluorescence the DNA contained is healthy whereas a green color indicates that the DNA is tumoral. If no fluorescence is emitted it means the targeted gene is not present in the droplet.
What it implicates
This technique could be a powerful tool in detecting cancers in patients. The common problem faced by cancer patients is that often they are unaware that they are harboring cancer and when detected the condition is already severe, i.e. the cancer is no longer in the early stages and in which treatments are hardly ever successful. If this technique becomes available we will have a potent diagnostic tool that is sensitive enough to detect early stages of cancer through bodily fluids that can be easily obtained.
1 The story is edited by Vicki Mozo from a press release of CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange): Droplets for Detecting Tumoral DNA
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