Breath analysis to diagnose several cancers

Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute recently announced that they have developed an innovative breath test that has the potential to diagnose multiple forms of cancer.

The new noninvasive test was developed in coordination with UK-based Owlstone Medical, the company that manufactures and supplies advanced chemical detection solutions. At the heart of the breath analysis is a chemical sensor on a silicon chip — the FAIMS microchip — that Owlstone claims is much cheaper and far smaller than existing technologies.

The chip is able to accurately detect the specific volatile organic compounds (VOC) in breath of people suffering from a wide range of cancers, as well as inflammatory and infectious diseases. Cells in the body release a wide range of VOCs during their natural processes, but, when they undergo mutations, the type of molecules they produce changes.

Clinical trials are now underway to assess the effectiveness of the new non-invasive test to detect several types of cancer at an early stage. If proven successful, the breath-analyzing diagnosis could help identify the presence of cancer early on, thus allowing people to access treatment immediately and enhance the chances of positive health outcomes.

The clinical trial called the PAN Cancer Trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath will test for multiple cancer types and potentially pave the way for a universal breath test that provides an entire body health snapshot. Around 1,500 people are participating in the clinical trials and include both, those living with various types of cancer and those who are healthy.