Cancer can now be detected with thanks to a simple Breath-Test.
The global quest to use a person’s breath analysis for rapid, inexpensive, and accurate early-stage testing for cancer has taken a leap forward in Australia.
Cancer is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way cells grow and division functions. Certain gene changes can cause cells to evade normal growth controls.
Flinders University researchers have reported significant progress in developing a method to test exhaled breath profiles that accurately differentiate head and neck cancer from non-cancer patients.
Breath samples were collected from 181 patients suspected of having early-stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) before any treatment began.
Lead researchers Dr. Roger Yazbek, and Associate Professor Eng Ooi said,
“We sought to determine the diagnostic accuracy of breath-test analysis as a non-invasive test for detecting head and neck cancer, which in time may result in a simple method to improve treatment outcomes and patient morbidity,”
Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer that arises from particular cells called squamous cells. Squamous cells are found in the outer layer of the skin and in the mucous membranes. The HNSCC develops in the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat.
Worldwide, head and neck cancer account for 6% of all cancers, killing more than 300,000 people per year globally. Also, Tobacco, alcohol, and poor oral hygiene are known as major risk factors for this cancer type.
Current therapies are effective at treating early-stage disease, however, late-stage presentations are common, and often associated with poor prognosis and high treatment-related morbidity. Therefore, early detection of cancer is vital.
In the Australian study, a selected ion flow tube mass spectrometer was used to analyze breath for volatile organic compounds. Using statistical modeling, the Flinders researchers were able to develop a breath test that could differentiate cancer and control (benign disease) patients, with an average sensitivity and specificity of 85%.
The diagnosis was confirmed by the analysis of tissue biopsies.
Co-lead author Dr. Nuwan Dharmawardana stated,
“With these strong results, we hope to trial the method in primary care settings, such as GP clinics, to further develop its use in early-stage screening for HNSCC in the community,”
The article on Breath-Test has been published (September 2020) in the British Journal of Cancer.