They're also looking into the possibility of using different bodily fluids to detect different cancer types from early to the later stages of the disease.
The test has yet to be conducted on humans, and clinical trials are needed before we know for sure if it can be used in the clinic. In some cases, the accuracy of cancer detection runs as high as 90%.
Researchers from the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) have identified a nano-scaled DNA signature that seems to be common to all cancers.
A blood test can detect cancer within just 10 minutes, scientists have found, raising hopes that hard-to-spot diseases could be picked up early when treatment is most effective.
This led the team to develop a test that can make the difference between healthy and malignant cells.
Carrascosa said the sensitivity of the test is considerably enough in detecting very low levels of cancer DNA in the sample. For years, medical researchers searched for a faster and less invasive way of diagnosing the early stages of cancer. The methylation of DNA could reportedly provide an overall picture of whether cancer is present in a body or not. In cancer cells, however, this particular pattern is being hijacked, and only the genes that help cancer grows are switched on. However, its effect in a solution (such as water) has never been explored.
"Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern", he explained. These were different to what we saw with normal tissue DNA in the water. This is because gold can affect molecular behaviour in a way that causes visible colour changes. On Twitter today, @WorkWithCancer wrote: "Although it is good news we think there'll be issues with the process and timing of follow up to find out what the cancer is and where".
The quick and simple test sees DNA extracted from a tissue sample before it is mixed with water, to which gold nanoparticles are added.
By simply observing the colour change, it is possible to identify the cancerous DNA with the naked eye within five minutes. He also used that hyped-inducing word "breakthrough" to describe his findings. In contrast, normal DNA folds in a somewhat different way, which does not result in such a strong affinity for gold, the researchers said. What if you had cancer and you were one of the 10% whose true cancer was not detected?
"It's going to be a lot of work to turn this sort of [test] into a real, clinically useful [test]", Weber told Live Science.