Clinical trials are being launched to test the development of a breath test that could detect the presence of cancer.
By analyzing molecules in a person’s breath, researchers hope the device can predict cancer at an earlier stage without needing more invasive ways of assessment.
In collaboration, the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Center and Owlstone Medical is running the PAN Cancer trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath to test their Breath Biopsy device.
In hopes of collecting 1,500 breath samples, the clinical trial will test for odorous molecules known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to certain cancers.
Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, lead trial investigator at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, said, “We urgently need to develop new tools, like this breath test, which could help to detect and diagnose cancer earlier, giving patients the best chance of surviving their disease. Through this clinical trial we hope to find signatures in breath needed to detect cancers earlier – it’s the crucial next step in developing this technology. Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy® technology is the first to test across multiple cancer types, potentially paving the way for a universal breath test.”
The researchers hope to identify different patterns of VOCs using Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy technology, in order to test for VOC alterations that indicate various conditions and cancers.
The 1,500 samples will also include healthy individuals as trial controls to analyze VOCs in the breath. Researchers will use these healthy samples to try to differentiate healthy signals from cancerous ones. The trial will begin with patients who have oesophageal and stomach cancers, and eventually expand to prostate, kidney, bladder, liver, and pancreatic cancers.
The test works by having a patient breathe into the test for ten minutes to collect a sample, which is then processed at Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy laboratory in the UK.
Researchers are interested in looking at a variety of cancer types in order to understand if cancer signals are similar or different, and if it is possible to detect these signals earlier. If the clinical trials prove successful, the team hopes the breath biopsies can be used by general practitioner practices to provide a more accurate and less invasive diagnosis.
Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said, “There is an increasing potential for breath-based tests to aid diagnosis, sitting alongside blood and urine tests in an effort to help doctors detect and treat disease. The concept of providing a whole-body snapshot in a completely non-invasive way is very powerful and could reduce harm by sparing patients from more invasive tests that they don’t need. Our technology has proven to be extremely effective at detecting VOCs in the breath, and we are proud to be working with Cancer Research UK as we look to apply it towards the incredibly important area of detecting early-stage disease in a range of cancers in patients.”
The team hopes by recognizing the importance of detecting cancer early, this device can impact individuals worldwide and help improve cancer survival rate.
“Technologies such as this breath test have the potential to revolutionize the way we detect and diagnose cancer in the future,” said Dr. David Crosby, head of early detection research at Cancer Research UK. “Early detection research has faced an historic lack of funding and industry interest, and this work is a shining example of Cancer Research UK’s commitment to reverse that trend and drive vital progress in shifting cancer diagnosis towards earlier stages.”