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New Technology Allows Researchers to ‘Sniff Out’ Effects of Radiotherapy

Electronic nose identifies chemicals in gut microflora (Feb. 21)

Researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. have completed a study that may allow clinicians to predict more accurately which patients will experience the gastrointestinal (GI) side effects of radiotherapy.

GI side effects are commonplace in radiotherapy patients and are occasionally severe, and yet there is no way of predicting which patients will be affected. The new study, published in Sensors, outlines how the use of an electronic “nose” and a newer technology, FAIMS (Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry), may help identify those at increased risk.

The researchers looked at the relationship between levels of toxicity in the gut and the likelihood of experiencing GI side effects.

“In the simplest terms, we believe that patterns in toxicity levels arise from differences in a patient’s gut microflora,” said Dr. Ramesh Arasaradnam. “By using this technology we can analyze stool samples and ‘sniff out’ the chemicals that are produced by these microflora to better predict the risk of side effects.”

In the future, the new technologies may help clinicians inform patients receiving pelvic radiotherapy before treatment is started, according to Arasaradnam.

“In essence, we will be able to predict those who are likely to develop severe gut-related side effects by the pattern of gut fermentation that is altered as a result of radiotherapy. This will enable future directed therapy in these high-risk groups,” he said.

Dr. James Covington added: “This technology offers considerable opportunities for the future. This shows just one application of being able to inform treatment by ‘sniffing’ patients. We foresee a time when such technology will become as routine a diagnostic test as checking blood pressure is today.”

Source: University of Warwick; February 21, 2013.

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