A report in The Guardian explained the affordable procedure as involving a cheap and simple test using a colour-changing fluid to show the presence of these cells in the body within ten minutes, making it a radical new approach to detect cancer using simple procedures.
The researchers discovered that the cancer cells with the sparse methyl groups on their DNA bind easily with gold surfaces.
Like this story? Subscribe to FierceBiotech! In cancer cells, however, methyl groups only cluster in specific points.
Relatively cheap and simple testing was made possible due to the team's discovery of cancer DNA and normal DNA sticking to metal surfaces in very different ways, allowing development of a test which can distinguish between healthy cells and those that are cancerous, even from tiny traces of DNA that find their way into the bloodstream.
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 researchers found the signature in multiple types of breast cancer as well as in prostate and colorectal cancer, and lymphoma.
With 90 percent accuracy, the researchers located DNA signatures that distinguish different types of cancer cells from healthy cells.
Although not precise enough to pinpoint locations, stage, or size of a tumour it would give a swift answer to whether the patient has cancer or not within a few minutes, when combined with other tests this could become a powerful diagnostic tool to determine type, location and stage.
Physicians believe that their method can be used to test for cancer using a mobile phone.
That's because the test is only accurate 90 per cent of the time - while it does not reveal where the cancer cells are located and how serious it is.
The breakthrough could lead to much earlier detection and increase the chance that treatment works because it could be started before traditional symptoms develop.
"On normal cells, these [beads] are evenly distributed, but in cancer cells they're actually bunched up together", he 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", Matt Trau, lead researcher of the study, said. When the DNA from cancers cells was added, the water retains its color.
A "universal fingerprint" has been found in the DNA of common cancers that could one day enable a diagnosis to be made with a simple ten-minute blood test.
So the researchers focused on DNA that circulates in the bloodstream after cancer cells die and release their cargo.
Trau added: "We certainly don't know yet whether it's the Holy Grail or not for all cancer diagnostics".