A number of experts are now trying to see if they can smell cancer from a patient’s breath. At the University of Southern California, one device is making this possible. It’s a breathalyzer, but with more critical detection capabilities. Within two minutes, you take a breath, and Dr. Michael Phillips will be able to tell if you have cancer. All in all, it’s possible to get a diagnosis in just five to 10 minutes.
Breath tests would be better than biopsies and x-rays.
Dr. Phillips is the founder and CEO of a company known as MENSSANA Research, Inc., which specializes in developing advanced new breath tests to provide early detection of certain diseases. The premise is that with early detection, diseases like cancer have a better chance of becoming cured. At the same time, these breath tests can prove to be an effective alternative to biopsies and x-rays, which can be too painful and expensive for the patient.
The way Dr. Phillips goes about getting breath samples for analysis is through the use of Breathlink. It is a cloud application that focuses on the collection, concentration and analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) in human breath. This is done with the aid of a mobile system called Breathscanner. All a patient has to do is breathe into this device for two minutes.
Once collected, the breath sample will be analyzed for certain markers of oxidative stress and disease. According to an article by the National Health Service in the U.K., cancers tend to have a certain “chemical signature” in the breath. For instance, a breath sample from an oesophageal cancer patient would show five key substances. These include butyric acid, pentanoic acid, hexanoic acid, butanal and decanal.
Dr. Phillips is targeting three conditions for early detection.
As for Dr. Phillips, he hopes Breathlink can be used to help in breast cancer, lung cancer and even heart transplant rejections. During a recent multicenter international study, Breathlink managed to identify patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis.
For the moment, Breathlink is not yet approved for use by the FDA. Now, it is still being utilized for clinical investigations.
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