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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Breathalizer to screen for lung cancer?

One of the main reasons there is such a high mortality rate for lung cancer is because usually by the time it is discovered it's too late to do anything for it, or it has metastasized to other parts of the body.

Yet, according Lynn Eldridge, "Breath Test to Detect Lung Cancer a Possibility," at, researchers in Israel Researchers in Israel "have developed an "electronic nose" - that is, an instrument that can 'smell' the breath of individuals who are healthy or have cancer, and know the difference. They found that the test could not only detect cancer, but could tell the difference between 4 different types of cancer, those being cancers of the lung, breast, colon, and prostate."

She continues, "How could a sample of exhaled air be useful in looking for cancer? Changes in genes and proteins that take place in cancer cause a change in the surface of cancer cells (the cell membrane). These changes result in the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be detected when someone exhales. A sensitive
nanoparticle array is then used to distinguish the different VOCs found in the 4 cancers studied and in healthy individuals.

She notes that 30% of lung cancer is found in the early stages, and this test would make it so more cancer can be discovered earlier. It's possible the test could be performed at a regular annual office visit.

"As it stands," she writes, "
only 30% people are diagnosed in the early stages (
stage 1 and stage 2) of lung cancer; 40% have already progressed to stage 4 (metastatic) lung cancer at the time of diagnosis. And that is for non-small cell lung cancer. For small cell lung cancer, the chance of finding cancer in a curable stage is even lower."

A quick breath at an office visit may not only allow doctors to screen early lung cancer, yet monitor the course of those with the disease, and especially those in remission.

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