The research was lead by Professor Philip Hogg, the co-director of UNSW's Lowy Cancer Research Center. The technology works by determining whether cancer cells are dying within one day of a patient's treatment with radiation or chemotherapy. In this way a patient can be kept away from intensive cancer therapies which are not doing their job.
As part of the test, a dye is used to determine whether a family of molecules, which attach themselves to dying or dead cancer cells, have appeared. If they have, doctors will know the treatment is working. If not, they will be able to change treatment quickly, allowing for a more effective response.
According to the researchers, this will improve patients' chances of survival and also allow them to bypass long, traumatic bouts of chemotherapy, which would later have proved futile.
"It's very exciting. There's no way to do this now. It's a real unmet need in cancer treatment," says Professor Hogg. "It will be a way of optimizing the therapy that's used."
The test, which would be suitable for all solid tumors, is not applicable to cases of leukemia.
The US pharmaceutical company Covidien has bought the rights to develop the technology, which it also believes will have applications for those suffering strokes and heart attacks.
Professor Hogg expects the test for cancer to be on hospital shelves within the next five years.