It is hoped that the new test will eventually be performed at the same time as routine blood tests, such as a cholesterol check - or even using a mobile phone app.
Researchers have always been looking for a commonality among cancers to develop a diagnostic tool that could apply across all types. Trau said, "Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern..."
"You can detect it by eye - it's as simple as that", study senior author Matt Trau, a professor and senior group leader at the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said in a statement.
And so, Sina and colleagues compared the epigenetic patterns on the genomes of cancer cells to those of healthy cells, specifically focusing on patterns of methyl groups.
"Our technique could be a screening tool to inform clinicians that a patient may have a cancer, but they would require subsequent tests with other techniques to identify the cancer type and stage", Carrascosa said.
Cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease and different types of cancer have different signatures. Trau explained that they relied on epigenetics and found that there were changes in the DNA that could control the functions of the cells. They add that the team is developing the test so that it could be used for screening of cancers especially in early stages.
Co-author Dr. Laura Carrascosa said: "There's been a big hunt to find whether there is some distinct DNA signature that is just in the cancer and not in the rest of the body". The team then noted that this novel marker was present in all types of breast cancer, colorectal or bowel cancer, prostate cancer and lymphomas.
Helpfully, these molecule clusters fold up into structures which like to stick to gold so can be tested for by using the precious metal. The gold particles change color depending on whether or not cancer DNA is present.
"That absolutely stunned us", Professor Trau said.
"This led to the creation of low-priced and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone".
The new diagnostic test demonstrated an accuracy of up to 90 percent when tested on 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA, according to the researchers.
This finding directed us to develop a test that can detect cancerous DNA in blood and tissue.
"This new discovery could be a game-changer in the field of point of care cancer diagnostics".
It is a promising start, though further analysis with more samples is needed to prove its clinical use.
Trau added: "We certainly don't know yet whether it's the Holy Grail or not for all cancer diagnostics".
Chemistry Professor and research associate Matt Trau said, "We certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics, but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker for cancer, and as an accessible and affordable technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".