Breath-Scanning Tech May Be The Future of Cancer Detection


Cancer Breath Test

A high-tech cousin to the Breathalyzer may be the future of
cancer detection. Trials of a simple cancer spotting breath
test are underway at the University of Southern California
(USC). Participants have volunteered to see if the the
“BreathLink” app and it’s partner device, the Breathscanner,
can detect cancer.

“It’s just like a breathalyzer for alcohol, only it’s a billion
times more sensitive,” Dr. Michael Phillips of Menssana
Research, who is spearheading the project, told CBS’s Susan Spencer.

Breathscanner collects human breath. Then BreathLink, a cloud application
device, subjects the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in it to
concentration analysis. It uses gas chromatography to separate
alveolar breath VOC samples and then detects each specific
target using surface acoustic wave detection (GC-SAW) or flame
ionization (GC-FID). It is sensitive to the picomolar (parts
per trillion).

BreathLink has already identified patients with active
pulmonary tuberculosis accurately, and these latest trials are
the next step in the process. Current clinical studies include
detection of lung and breast cancer, as well as heart
transplant rejection. The device’s makers hope that these
trials, if successful, will pave the way toward FDA approval.

Faster, Easier, Accurate Detection

A different breath test, developed at
Imperial College London is based on selected ion flow-tube mass
spectrometry
, is also undergoing trials. Thus far,
it has successfully detected esophageal and stomach cancers in
300 patients with 85 percent accuracy. Lead researcher Dr. Sheraz Markar commented to the European
Cancer Congress 2017 in January:

“At present the only way to diagnose
esophageal cancer or stomach cancer is with endoscopy. This
method is expensive, invasive and has some risk of complications.
A breath test could be used as a non-invasive, first-line test to
reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies. In the longer term
this could also mean earlier diagnosis and treatment and better
survival.”

Similarly, Breathscanner touts few complications, fast
results, and earlier diagnosis. Since it’s a mobile
point-of-care system, it can be used in the field or in an
office—anywhere that has an Internet connection. It works in
tandem with the BreathLink cloud application device, which uses
proprietary algorithms to identify markers of disease and
oxidative stress. Then, it sends data to servers in a
central laboratory, where all data exchanges are protected by
defense-level encryption. For patients, the process is simple:
they just breathe into the device for two minutes. Less than
ten minutes later, they have their answer.

When asked whether patients with cancer really have different
breath, Dr, Phillips said, “The answer to that is definitely
yes, for breast cancer and lung cancer.”

Dr. Markar explains why: “Because cancer
cells are different to healthy ones, they produce a different
mixture of chemicals.”

These two trials are signaling the future of cancer detection.
Both research teams are working on detecting additional kinds
of cancer in breath.


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Breath-Scanning Tech May Be The Future of Cancer Detection

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