The Nose Knows Better: New Breath Test Makes Stomach Cancers Easier to Detect

A new breakthrough in detection of stomach cancer has been used to test breath samples in order to detect primarily stomach cancers and other precancerous stomach conditions according to a new study published in the international gastroenterology journal Gut.

This study was conducted by a group of scientists headed by Dr. Hossaim Haick, an Israeli chemical engineer. Dr. Haick and his team tested breath samples from 484 Latvians and the tests results proved to be 92 percent accurate. While the test results have “excellent” accuracy, the test can still result to a 2% margin of false positive.

The   breath test – nanoarray analysis – utilizes sensors that are made up of two components, an organic film that respond to certain types of molecules and the second layer, that transform this response to electrical signals. To test, patients exhale into a tube and the breath sample from the patient go through the built-in sensors.

To verify the results of the new method, the expensive and time-consuming mass spectronometry – a method for identifying the chemical composition of substances through separation of gaseous ions according to their varying mass and charge – was also used by the team. This method allowed the team to create a guide of what molecular patterns the nanoarray should check for.

According to Dr. Jean-Marie Houghton, a spokesperson for American Gastroenterological Association of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the breakthrough method shows a lot of promise. However, a larger and more varied populations’ test must produce accurate results should breath analysis become widespread. He added, it’s more likely that this new testing method would become a complimentary tool that would be used on persons that don’t show symptoms but environmental conditions and genetics of the person suggest that there is a need for him to take the test.

As of present, stomach cancers can only be treated using invasive methods and success rates depend majorly on early detection. Stomach cancer ranks 5th among most common types being diagnosed globally and according to Marcis Leja, a member of the research team, an estimated 2/3 of the cases are late diagnoses. He added that close to a million new cases are diagnosed each year and this is a “neglected” problem.   The less symptoms there is for this disease, the less likelihood for people to undertake any expensive examinations. Hopefully, with the new method being cheaper, faster and easier to perform, early treatments might increase survival for patients.

The team is now working on the next generation of the device. Leja says that the team is working on proving the study works in larger populations but that would take a couple of years despite the study’s promising development.

Future researches may help build sensors directly into breathing tube, enabling doctors to perform the test like the breathalyzer in just a few minutes.



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