Breath Test May Change The Way Lung Cancer Is Tested

First Posted: Feb 16, 2015 02:18 AM EST

Testing for lung cancer is not simple. It oftentimes can involve invasive procedures, including mediastinoscopy, thoracoscopy (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery), transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA), transthoracic needle aspiration (TTNA), and endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration (EUS-NA).

Researchers at the University of Leicester and Leicester's Hospital in the United Kingdom are working to change that. Recent clinical trials have helped officials program a non-invasive method for diagnosing lung cancer in the early stages. The new method involves a breath test that works by measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at low concentration in a patient's breath and offers a much cheaper alternative to previously used testing technologies.

Health officials said they hope that LuCID (Lung Cancer Indicator Detection) programmem, which was backed by the Cambridge-based Owlstone Nanotech Ltd, will lead to a non-invasive method of diagnosing lung cancer in the early stages.

As researchers conduct more trials, they aim to further evaluate Owlstone's GC-FAIMS (Gas Chromatography -- Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry) sensor in a rapid access lung cancer clinic at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester starting later this year.

"If you could change only one thing in the fight against cancer, it would be to detect the disease earlier where existing treatments are already proven to save lives," Billy Boyle, co-founder of Owlstone, said in a news release. "FAIMS technology has the potential to bring a quick and easy-to-use breath test to a GP's office. Our team will not rest until we help stop the daily devastation that cancer brings to patients and their families."

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the U.K. (2011), accounting for 13 percent of all new cases and the second most diagnosed cancer in the United States. These new testing methods could mean big changes for those affected by the health issue.

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