Now, an `electronic nose` to sniff out cancer!

Now, an "electronic nose" which can sniff out cancer with a simple breath test, say scientists.

Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011, 17:42 PM IST

London: Now, an "electronic nose" which can sniff out cancer with a simple breath test,say scientists.

A team at the Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology in Israel have developed the electronic nose which is so sophisticated a device that it can sniff out malignant
head and neck cancer tumours which are often hard to diagnose.

According to them, it picks up on microscopic chemical changes that are emitted in the breath of people with the two cancers, compared to those without the disease.

The Nano Artificial Nose has been tested on a small sample group but there are hopes it could one day be used as a routine test on the cancers, the `Daily Express` reported.

Patients develop tumours of the head, neck, salivaryglands and mucus membranes. These cancers are hard to spot early and are often not diagnosed until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

The nano nose was able to tell apart breath molecules from head and neck cancer patients and healthy people. It also distinguished between lung cancer patients and those free of the disease, and between head and neck cancer and lung cancer patients, say the scientists.

In fact, for their study, the scientists collected breath samples from 82 patients who had head and neck cancer, lung cancer, or were cancer-free.

Lead scientist Prof Hossam Haick said: "There`s an urgent need to develop new ways to detect head and neck cancer because diagnosis of the disease is complicated, requiring
specialist examinations.

"We`ve shown that a simple `breath test` can spot the patterns of molecules which are found in head and neck patients in a small, early study. We now need to test these
results in larger studies to find if this could lead to a potential screening method for the disease."

Experts have welcomed the findings published in the `Journal of Cancer Research`.
Dr Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK said: "These interesting initial results show promise for the development of a breath test to detect head and neck cancers which are
often diagnosed at an advanced stage.

"But it`s important to be clear that this is a small study, at a very early stage, so many more years of research with patients will be needed to see if a breath test could be
used in the clinic."

PTI