An Epigenetic Signature that Matches the Majority of Cancers

Real progress in the defeat of cancer will emerge from mechanisms that are common to near all cancers. Given a signature, or a required mechanism, that appears universally in cancer, then it should be possible to craft a single form of treatment that can be applied to any cancer type. That the enormous and massively funded cancer research community has struggled to make progress towards the control of cancer in the present environment of revolutionary progress in the tools of biotechnology largely results from spending too much time and too many resources on technologies that are only narrowly applicable to certain types of cancer. There are hundreds of subtypes of cancer, and only so many research groups with the resources to spend the years needed to build a new therapy. A change of focus is required. Fortunately, a number of candidate mechanisms for means to control most or all forms of cancer do in fact exist, such as the fact that all cancer cells must abuse telomerase or alternative lengthening of telomeres in order to replicate without limit. There are initial signs of others, with the research here being an example of the type.

A quick and easy test to detect cancer from blood or biopsy tissue could eventually result in a new approach to patient diagnosis. Researches have discovered a unique DNA nanostructure that appears to be common to all cancers. Cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease and different types of cancer have different signatures. It has been difficult to find a simple signature that was distinct from healthy cells and common to all cancers. "This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal, and lymphoma. The levels and patterns of tiny molecules called methyl groups that decorate DNA are altered dramatically by cancer - these methyl groups are key for cells to control which genes are turned on and off. In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome, but the genomes of cancer cells are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations."

The team discovered that intense clusters of methyl groups placed in a solution caused cancer DNA fragments to fold into unique three-dimensional nanostructures that could easily be separated by sticking to solid surfaces such as gold. Cancer cells released their DNA into blood plasma when they died. "So we were very excited about an easy way of catching these circulating free cancer DNA signatures in blood. Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a breakthrough that has enabled an entirely new approach to detect cancer non-invasively in any tissue type including blood. This led to the creation of inexpensive and portable detection devices." The new technology has proved to be up to 90 percent accurate in tests involving 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA.

Link: https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2018/12/nano-signature-discovery-could-revolutionise-cancer-diagnosis


No offense at all, but these kind of articles do seem to sounds things too easy.

Let's face it, we do know how cancer works. I've heard many solutions before. "Just block glucose from cancerous cells". Sounds like a simple solution, but it is not.

Stating that "the enormous and massively funded cancer research community has struggled to make progress towards the control of cancer (...) results from spending too much time and too many resources on technologies that are only narrowly applicable to certain types of cancer." sounds too simplistic. Of course a lot of researchers are looking into the one-to-cure-all magic pill to defeat all cancers, but they've failed to do that for the past 50 years.

That's why sometimes when I hear Aubrey de Grey talk about the 7 causes of aging, saying how "we know how they all work we only need to tackle them", I think about cancer research. Audrey could say "we know how cancerous cells work, we're researching a drug that blocks this or targets this". Sounds simple, it is not. I'm a little bit afraid that longevity research will be exactly the same. Sounds simple, it wont be. And we won't have a cure to aging in the next 50 years at least.

Or am I being too pessimistic? :-)

Posted by: Sebastian at December 6th, 2018 6:52 AM

Sebastian said: "but they've failed to do that for the past 50 years"

That *does* sound too simplistic. You need to dig deeper and discuss the actual technical details to see why OncoSENS can't fail.

Posted by: Antonio at December 6th, 2018 7:33 AM

@Sebastian: The article is not about controlling or curing cancer but a way of detecting cancer by blood testing. They mention especially detection of breast cancer and prostate cancer, which includes the highest percentage of all cancers. This would be a very valuable cancer detection tool in my opinion.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at December 6th, 2018 7:38 AM


Cancer is so hard to treat because of rapid mutation and therefore evolution. It adapts so quickly. Other types of damage would not, so should be easier (could still be very hard).

Agree that finding a one shot cancer treatment is likely to be very challenging though. More so than we might like.

Posted by: Fitzy at December 7th, 2018 5:30 AM

Cancer metabolism is another 'unifying field theory' of oncology. The Warburg effect is present in the vast majority of cancers (as well as stem cells -- but not germ cells, which are similarly quiescent most of the time). I am irritated by the insistence that 'every cancer is unique' and therefore a new Imatinib will be required for each myriad mutation. That paradigm will keep pharma in business for a long time, preserving the status quo.

Posted by: Sebastian at December 12th, 2018 6:48 AM

For anyone keeping score, the comment above on Dec 12 is from a different 'Sebastian' that the first commenter.

Posted by: Sebastian A. at December 12th, 2018 6:50 AM

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