Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Essential for a promising therapy is an early and accurate diagnosis. Researchers in the United Kingdom are working to provide another diagnostic tool: their novel breath biopsy technology is mature enough to be ready for a large-scale clinical trial.

Image: Owlstone Medical

Diagnostics with only one breath

For their study, the researchers want to collect more than 1500 different breath samples from cancer patients to see how well the new breath biopsy works and to identify more cancer biomarkers in the breath.

The idea of ​​operating diagnostics on the basis of a sample of breathing air is not entirely new. In recent years, there have been several promising approaches, including the diagnosis of influenza and malaria. Most of these devices have not yet made it to the market. Apparently it is not easy to identify reliable diagnostic markers that can be detected in the air. Respiratory tests for cancer diagnosis have also been repeatedly announced – especially for cancers such as stomach and lung cancer. The new clinical study aims to identify molecules called "volatile organic compounds" (VOCs) associated with the occurrence of certain tumor types.

The study is a collaboration between the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Center and Owlstone Medical. The goal is to investigate the efficiency of Owlstone's proprietary respiratory biopsy technology.

" VOCs in the breath and we are looking to apply it to the incredibly important area of ​​detecting early-stage disease in a range of cancers in patients "said Billy Boyle, CEO of Owlstone Medical.

More than 1500 samples

The hypothesis behind the technology is that in the disruption of metabolism by disease, the cells of the body begin to produce unique, clearly distinguishable combinations of VOCs, which can then be detected in the air exhaled by the patient. On this basis, devices are to be developed that can diagnose illnesses by means of a single breath.

" Intuitively, lung cancer appears in the breath. Rebecca Fitzgerald, who directs the study, says: "But because of the way metabolites are recycled in the body" .

Breath samples from patients with six different cancers are taken and examined for the study. First results are expected during the year 2021.

via Cancer Research UK

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