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Breathalyzer Test May Detect Lung Cancer

Nanotech chip sniffs out tumors

Lung cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than the next three most common cancers (colon, breast, and pancreatic) combined. The reason for the striking mortality rate is simple: poor detection.

A new device developed by a team of Israeli, American, and British cancer researchers may turn the tide by both accurately detecting lung cancer and identifying its stage of progression. The breathalyzer test, embedded with a NaNose nanotech chip, literally “sniffs out” cancer tumors.

The study, presented at a recent American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, was conducted in 358 patients who were either diagnosed with or at risk for lung cancer.

Lung cancer tumors produce chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which evaporate into the air and produce a discernible scent profile. The investigators used nanotechnology to develop the NaNose chip, which detects the unique “signature” of VOCs in exhaled breath. In four out of five cases, the device differentiated benign and malignant lung lesions and even different cancer subtypes.

The breathalyzer device and subsequent analysis accurately sorted healthy people from people with early-stage lung cancer 85% of the time, and healthy people from those with advanced lung cancer 82% of the time. The test also accurately distinguished between early and advanced lung cancer 79% of the time.

“The device could prove valuable in helping determine patients who need more intensive screening for lung cancer,” said lead researcher Professor Nir Peled. “We're hoping to have a device that would be able to give you a go/no-go result — something's wrong; go get an X-ray.”

A Boston-based company, Alpha Szenszor, has licensed the technology and hopes to introduce it to the U.S. market within the next few years. Meanwhile, scientists have developed a new, smaller version of the device that can plug into a computer's USB port.

Source: Medical Xpress; June 18, 2014.

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