Could cancer be detected in your breath in just ten minutes? It just might be possible. An innovative breathalyzer designed to help diagnose multiple cancers is now being assessed in a large clinical trial in the United Kingdom.
How does it work?
This non-invasive test is called the Breath Biopsy - participants will wear and breath into it for 10 minutes. A cartridge inside the device acts like a sponge and its job is to capture certain chemicals. Now our bodies emit hundreds of volatile organic compounds or VOCs. These are molecules and the thought is, if you develop cancer, the VOCs will change. And what the researchers hope will happen, is that the breath biopsy will be able to detect these altered molecules.
What types of cancer might this device be used to detect?
The researchers are starting first with patients with cancer of the stomach and esophagus. Then they plan to include patients with prostate cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and pancreatic cancer. The goal is to develop a universal breath test with this clinical device able to detect multiple cancers.
How are they going to know if this actually works, what’s their plan?
The two-year trial plans to recruit up to 1,500 participants. Healthy people will also take part and act as the control group. Now the researchers plan to analyze breath samples from everyone, looking to see if cancer signals are the same or similar, and how early these signals could be detected. Participants will also follow up with traditional diagnostic methods and be monitored to see who does or doesn’t develop cancer. If this study is successful, the goal is to have the breath biopsies used in doctors' practices. And hopefully, this will aid in diagnosing cancer early. Because the earlier cancer is found, the better chance you’ll have of beating and surviving the disease.