Cancer breath test could soon be reality
The innovative new test, which uses an electronic nose to sniff-out cancer, has been developed by scientists and has gone through preliminary testing.
It was discovered that the Nano Artificial NOSE, also known as the Na-NOSE, could smell chemical signs of cancer in the breath of patients suffering from lung cancer and different types of head and neck cancer.
Published in the British Journal of Cancer, the results were based on a small study of 82 people. Out of the group, 22 people had lung cancer, 24 had a form of head or neck cancer and 36 were healthy.
The Na-Nose was able to tell the difference between the breath of participants with lung cancer, those with head and neck cancer and those that were healthy.
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Although it was only a preliminary trail, scientists are hopeful that it could provide a useful tool in detecting head and neck cancers which are often diagnosed late, and as a result more difficult to treat.
The results that came from the study were promising, although much larger studies need to be carried out to confirm them and to see if the Na-NOSE can differentiate between differnt types of head and neck cancer.
Dr Lesley Walker from Cancer Research UK said: “These interesting initial results show promise for the development of a breath test to detect head-and-neck cancers which are often diagnosed at an advanced stage.”
“But it's important to be clear that this is a small study, at a very early stage, so many more years of research with patients will be needed to see if a breath test could be used in the clinic.”
If it was found to be successful, the Na-NOSE could potentially be used to give an instant cancer diagnoses in doctor’s surgeries.
Lead researcher, Professor Hossam Haick, said: “There's an urgent need to develop new ways to detect head-and-neck cancer because diagnosis of the disease is complicated, requiring specialist examinations.”
“We've shown that a simple breath test can spot the patterns of molecules which are found in head-and-neck patients in a small, early study.”
“We now need to test these results in larger studies to find if this could lead to a potential screening method for the disease.”