A new cancer ‘breathalyser’ could save thousands of lives by detecting the disease in peoples’ breath.
The Breath Biopsy will revolutionise cancer diagnosis and lead to more people spotting the disease at an early stage, doctors have said.
Its developers claim it has the potential to save millions of pounds in healthcare costs, as well as improving survival rates.
The test, currently being trialled in the UK, is designed to detect cancer hallmarks in molecules exhaled by patients.
Initially patients with suspected oesophageal and stomach cancers will be asked to try the test.>Baby Carter Cookson dies after desperate bid to find donor heart fails
Later the trial will be extended to include prostate, kidney, bladder, liver and pancreatic cancers.
The two-year trial, taking place at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, involves 1,500 people, both healthy individuals and those who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Almost half of cancers are diagnosed at a late stage in England, according to government figures.
Late diagnosis is one of the main reasons why only 12 per cent of oesophageal cancer patients survive as long as 10 years.
How it works
Patients breathe into the cancer breathalyser for 10 minutes.
Cancer cells give off waste products in airborne molecules known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs collected by the test will then be sent to a laboratory in Cambridge for analysis.
Cells in the body produce a range of VOCs as part of their normal metabolic processes. The molecules find their way into the lungs and emerge in the breath.
The idea behind the test is that cancer can cause recognisable alterations in the pattern of VOCs.
If the technology is shown to be reliable and accurate, cancer breathalysers could become a common sight in GP surgeries.
The PAN Cancer Trial For Early Detection Of Cancer In Breath is being run by Cancer Research UK in conjunction with British company Owlstone Medical, which invented the test.
Rebecca Coldrick, 54, from Cambridge, who is taking part in the trial, was diagnosed in her early 30s with Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition linked to acid reflux that can lead to oesophageal cancer.
She said: ‘I began to live on Gaviscon and other indigestion remedies. I went to the doctors and shortly after I was diagnosed with Barrett’s.
‘Every two years I have an endoscopy to monitor my condition.
‘I think the more research done to monitor conditions like mine and the kinder the detection tests developed, the better.’
Lead investigator Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald said: ‘We urgently need to develop new tools, like this breath test, which could help to detect and diagnose cancer earlier, giving patients the best chance of surviving their disease.
‘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.’>Mum injured in crash with Prince Philip, 97, wants him 'prosecuted or give up licence'
Billy Boyle, co-founder and chief executive of 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.
‘The concept of providing a whole-body snapshot in a completely non-invasive way is very powerful and could reduce harm by sparing patients from more invasive tests that they don’t need.’
Dr David Crosby, head of early detection research at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Technologies such as this breath test have the potential to revolutionise the way we detect and diagnose cancer in the future.’
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Source : https://metro.co.uk/2019/01/03/new-test-detects-cancer-patients-breath-save-thousands-people-8304634/