New DNA test uses nanotechnology to find early signs of cancer

Using tiny crystals called quantum dots, Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a highly sensitive test to look for DNA attachments that often are early warning signs of cancer.

This test, which detects both the presence and the quantity of certain DNA changes, could alert people who are at risk of developing the disease and could tell doctors how well a particular cancer treatment is working.

The new test was reported in a paper called “MS-qFRET: a quantum dot-based method for analysis of DNA methylation,” published in the August issue of the journal Genome Research. The work also was presented at a conference of the American Association of Cancer Research.

“If it leads to early detection of cancer, this test could have huge clinical implications,” said Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering whose lab team played a leading role in developing the technique. “Doctors usually have the greatest success in fighting cancer if they can treat it in its early stage.”

Wang and his students developed the test over the past three years with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Stephen B. Baylin, deputy director of the center and a co-author of the Genome Research study, said the test represents “a very promising platform” to help doctors detect cancer at an early stage and to predict which patients are most likely to………

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