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Breath Test Detects Stomach Cancers

New method could provide alternative to endoscopies (Mar. 6)

A new type of breath test that detects nanoparticles could help diagnose stomach cancers, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Scientists in Israel and China used nanomaterial-based sensors to detect biomarkers — chemical profiles associated with specific stomach complaints or types of cancer — in the air exhaled by 130 subjects with a range of stomach disorders (n = 98) or stomach cancers (n = 32).

The nanomaterial sensors had a success rate of more than 90% in differentiating between stomach cancers and more benign conditions. The sensors were also more than 90% accurate at detecting the difference between early and late-stage gastric cancers.

Chemical analysis found that five volatile organic compounds (2-propenenitrile, 2-butoxy-ethanol, furfural, 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, and isoprene) were significantly elevated in patients with gastric cancers and/or peptic ulcers, compared with less severe gastric conditions.

Lead researcher Professor Hossam Haick said: “The promising findings from this early study suggest that using a breath test to diagnose stomach cancers, as well as more benign complaints, could be a future alternative to endoscopies, which can be costly and time-consuming as well as unpleasant to the patient.”

Dr. Kate Law added: “Only 1 in 5 people are able to have surgery as part of their treatment as most stomach cancers are diagnosed at stages that are too advanced for surgery. Any test that could help diagnose stomach cancers earlier would make a difference to patients’ long-term survival.”

Sources: Cancer Research UK; March 6, 2013; and British Journal of Cancer; March 5, 2013.

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