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Breath test could detect stomach cancers

Nanomaterial sensors has 90% success rate for detection

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 06 March 2013

A new type of breath test that detects nanoparticles could help to diagnose stomach cancers, according to a study published online today in the British Journal of Cancer.

Scientists from Israel and China have designed the breath test and said, if backed up with further research, it could mean much earlier diagnosis of the disease and could replace the need for endoscopies in the future.

In the UK, around 7,000 people develop stomach cancer every year and most of these cases are in their advanced stages when diagnosed.

The team of researchers took breath samples from 130 patients with a range of different stomach complaints as well as those with stomach cancers.

Of the 130 patients, 37 had gastric cancers, 32 had ulcers and 61 had less severe conditions.

Using nanomaterial-based sensors, they found the sensors had a more than 90% success rate at differentiating between stomach cancers and more benign conditions.

The sensors, which detect biomarkers (a chemical profile associated with specific stomach complaints or types of cancer) in the air people exhaled, were also more than 90% accurate at detecting the difference between early and late stage gastric cancers.

Professor Hossam Haick, lead researcher from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, said: “The promising findings from this early study suggest that using a breath test to diagnose stomach cancers, as well as more benign complaints, could be a future alternative to endoscopies – which can be costly and time consuming, as well as unpleasant to the patient.

“Nevertheless, these results are at an early stage and support the concept of a breath test to detect stomach cancers but further validations are needed. Indeed, we’re already building on the success of this study with a larger-scale clinical trial.

“If found to be accurate enough, the nanomaterial breath test presents a new possibility for screening a population for stomach cancer, which would hopefully lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease.”

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: “The results of this latest study are promising – although large scale trials will now be needed to confirm these findings.

“Only 1 in 5 people are able to have surgery as part of their treatment as most stomach cancers are diagnosed at stages that are too advanced for surgery. Any test that could help diagnose stomach cancers earlier would make a difference to patients’ long-term survival.”

DOI: 10.1038/bjc.2013.44

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