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February 27, 2007

Scientists Report A Breath Test To Detect Lung Cancer

Topics: Medicine
Background: So far, the most accurate way to detect cancer using breath has been with dogs. However, researchers know that tumor cells produce different compounds compared to normal cells. These volatile organic compounds should be detectable, especially in lung cancer, because people exhale air that is directly affected by the cells and the exhaled breath of patients with lung cancer seems to be unique.
lung%20cancer.jpgLung cancer is a cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining the air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, and are diagnosed on the basis of how the cells look under a microscope. With an estimated number of 213,380 new cases and 160,390 deaths from lung cancer (non-small cell and small cell combined) in the United States in 2007, and the fact that there are often no symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer when treatment is more effective, early detection has been a crucial and elusive requirement for survival. What has been needed is an inexpensive, non-invasive screening or diagnostic test for lung cancer.

Now, there just might be such a diagnostic tool. A new report from The Cleveland Clinic reveals a breath test that can find the disease with "moderate accuracy," even in its early stages. The researchers believe this could revolutionize the way cancer is detected and potentially save lives:

During the test, a chemical color sensor detects tiny changes in the unique chemical signature of the breath of lung cancer patients. Metabolic changes in cancer cells cause changes in the way certain chemicals in the air are processed in the lungs. This means the air being exhaled by a person with lung cancer will be different from the air being exhaled by someone without lung cancer.

lung%20cancer%20sensor.jpg

(The sensor array used in this study consists of 36 chemically-sensitive dots on a disposable cartridge)

Researchers used the sensor to test the breath of 122 people with different respiratory diseases, including 49 patients with various stages of small cell lung cancer. They also tested the breath of 21 healthy people. The test accurately predicted cancer in almost three out of four of those with lung cancer, according to study authors.

While work remains to be done before such a test could be routinely available, there is hope that this line of investigation could lead to the much needed inexpensive, non-invasive screening or diagnostic test for lung cancer that can detect the disease at its earliest stages.

Cross posted from New Hope Blog

Posted by Richard at February 27, 2007 9:01 PM



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