Revolutionary cancer breathalyser being trialled could save millions of lives

Revolutionary cancer breathalyser being trialled could save millions of lives

Cancer could be diagnosed with a breathalyser test in future, scientists have revealed.

Researchers want to find out if signals of different cancer types can be picked up in patterns of breath molecules.

Researchers in the United Kingdom announced Thursday the launch of a clinical trial for a breathalyzer device that the company believes could be used for early cancer detection in patients.

Cells in the body produce a range of VOCs as part of their normal metabolic processes.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: "There is increasing potential for breath-based tests to aid diagnosis, sitting alongside blood and urine tests in an effort to help doctors detect and treat disease".

Some of these 1,500 will have been referred to the hospital by their local doctor because they have reported symptoms that could be read as early signs of cancer.

Directly funded by device manufacturer Owlstone Medical, the test will at first take samples from people suspected of having stomach or oesophageal cancers, before being expanded to look for signs of other types, such as pancreatic, prostate, kidney, bladder and liver cancers.

At Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, participants will be asked to breathe into a face mask for 10 minutes so a sample can be collected.

The idea is to identify if cancer signals are similar or different and how early any signals could be picked up. Some people will go on to be diagnosed with cancer, and their samples will be compared to those who don't develop the disease.

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"Through this clinical trial we hope to find signatures in breath needed to detect cancers earlier - it's the crucial next step in developing this technology", Rebecca Fitzgerald, lead investigator of the study, said in a press release.

Nearly half of cancers are diagnosed at a late stage in England, according to government figures.

The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre is running the PAN Cancer trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath in collaboration with Owlstone Medical to test their Breath Biopsy® technology.

There are more than 360,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year, according to Cancer Research UK.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Past research has shown that a human's breath contains carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen, as well as more than 100 chemical compounds, some of which form cancerous patterns.

Any breath test used on large numbers of patients would have to be sensitive and accurate to avoid misdiagnoses and false positives. He said the device captures chemicals using a cartridge, which "acts like a sponge", and it is then transported to a lab where it is analyzed.

The trial is being run by Cancer Research UK alongside Owlstone Medical.

If it is proved the technology works, the system could be put in place at GP practices throughout the country within a few years.

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