Analyze breath to detect cancer

Analyzing the breath to detect cancer: the idea that may seem absurd, is actually a body experiment in Italy to detect colon cancer. An electronic nose was first developed in the United States to “sniff out” lung tumors.

An experimental test developed by Donato Altomare’s team at the University of Bari determined with 76% accuracy whether or not a patient had  colorectal cancer , the second leading cause of death from cancer in Europe.

“The technique of collecting breath samples is very simple and non-invasive,” says Dr. Altomare in a statement accompanying the Wednesday release of their study in the British Journal of Surgery (BJS). It is recognized, however, that the technique is still in an “experimental phase”.

The tests developed by the team are based on gas chromatography analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOC) contained in the breath of patients. It has been known for some years that the production of these VOCs is “altered” in  cancer patients , but no one fully understands the biochemical mechanisms involved.

very small sample

First, Professor Altomare’s team developed a profile of VOC content in the breath of patients with colorectal cancer and then of healthy patients, working with 37 patients with the disease and 41 healthy people. They then tested the sensitivity of the developed test on another 25 patients (15 cancer patients and 10 healthy ones), obtaining a correct diagnosis in 19 of them.

An accuracy rate of around 75% “is too small,” says French gastroenterologist Isabelle Nion-Larmurier. “But the sample is small and we should see more tests,” she adds.

For the specialist, with this type of test it would be much easier to closely observe the general population than with the current test, the Hemoccult type, based on the blood test in the stool, which is always difficult to perform in people. over 50 years old (only a third of the target population to be submitted).

An interesting feature of the Italian study is that the sensitivity of this test also appears to be high for diagnosing cancer in early stages (stages I and II) compared to advanced stages (stages III and IV).

“Electronic Nose”

Prof’s team Altomare is not the only one working on the subject. A small California company, Metabolomx, has developed an electronic nose for the experimental detection  of lung cancer , again using a patient’s exhaled air.

The company says on its website that tests performed by the Cleveland Clinic showed that the machine was as reliable as a traditional scanner in diagnosing lung cancer and more than that, the artificial nose was able to determine the type of cancer cells involved.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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