A BREATH test could soon be used to spot cancer early - saving millions of lives.
The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre is operating the trial, which hopes to develop the test which would potentially provide a non-invasive manner to ascertain if someone has cancer at an early stage. Patients will breathe into the test for 10 minutes to collect a sample, which will then be processed in Owlstone Medical's Breath Biopsy laboratory in Cambridge.
Cells in the body produce VOCs which are produced as part of their metabolic processes.
Cancer cells alter metabolism even at the very earliest stage of disease, affecting the pattern of the VOCs exhaled, the release said.
Past research has shown that a human's breath contains carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen, as well as more than 100 chemical compounds, some of which form cancerous patterns.
The researchers of this latest trial hope successful trials of the technology could lead to its use by general practitioners as a preliminary test for further diagnostic cancer tests.
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The first patients trialling the device are those with suspected oesophageal and stomach cancers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.
If the technology is proven, the hope is that breath tests could be used in GP practices to decide if patients need to be referred for more tests.
Nearly half of cancers are diagnosed at a late stage in England, according to government figures, and this is one of the main reasons why only 12% of oesophageal cancer patients survive as long as 10 years, for example. Out of 100 people with Barrett's esophagus in the United Kingdom, up to 13 could go on to develop esophageal adenocarcinoma.
She said: "About 20 years ago I developed acid reflux, and I began to live on Gaviscon and other indigestion remedies".
In short, there is a long way to go and much more research needed on more people before a breath test will be appearing in any GP surgeries.
The technique would be revolutionary if successful, as it would allow for earlier detection of cancers without the need for invasive procedures. "It's the crucial next step in developing this technology". Initially, I thought I might feel a bit claustrophobic wearing the mask, but I didn't at all.
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The breath biopsy test has been developed by Cambridge-based biotech firm Owlstone Medical and is the first that works for multiple cancer types.
"Eventually, I imagine it used as a screening tool where you test well people, or a triage test that can sit in the surgery to help Global Positioning System know who to refer", she added.
Owlstone Medical is the pioneer that developed this device and test.
Similarly, a greater understanding of the biology of cancer means researchers are now confident they know what to look for.
There are more than 360,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year, according to Cancer Research UK. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.
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