Marking the Cancer Landscape
Cancers are often caused by non-genetic influences such as substances or carcinogens that can affect how our genes are expressed (epigenetics). It would appear in most cancers that when this happens there are changes in the gene structure in particular with the distribution of the chemical methyl (CH3) groups. This change causes what is now called a 'Methylscape' in the affected gene, and this chemical landscape can be detected by a relatively fast and simple test.
Simple Universal Cancer Test
The test that has been developed by researchers at the the University of Queensland and reported in the journal Nature Communications detects a form of methylation that appears to be a feature of all cancer. This would mean that a positive result would indicate the presence of cancer, and further tests would need to be performed in order to be more specific. This could be a useful screening test. Furthermore, the test does not require tissue biopsy as only a liquid sample is required.
The methylscape test is now undergoing clinical studies to evaluate its clinical value and application, but if early results are anything to go by this could be another landmark diagnostic test.
This ten minute non-invasive test that does not require the sophistication normally associated with genetic sequencing is being reported as an incredibly simple method potentially for the early detection of any cancer. The methylscape could be a simple signature common to all cancers.