'Electronic nose' detects cancer

Technion device shown effective in literally sniffing out disease.

The British Journal of Cancer has just recognized the potential of the “electronic nose” – developed by Dr. Hossam Haick and publicized in recent years – for detecting at an early stage four types of cancer: lung, breast, prostate and colon.
The cancer-sniffing device was invented by the researcher at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute in the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Chemical Engineering.
Clinical trials have already shown that the device detects cancer, including its type and location, with a 92 percent success rate and can distinguish between cancer patients and healthy people.
Scientists have known for some time now that dogs are capable of detecting cancer in earlier stages by sniffing the patient’s breath. The animals are able to identify molecules created by a tumor that circulate through patient’s blood to the lungs, and leave the body when the patient exhales.
The “artificial nose” was developed based on this knowledge, and the final product – now integrating a single nanometric sensor – is very close to a dog’s olfactory system.
Research has passed the experimental stage of clinical trials, which showed that the nose could not only differentiate between healthy and sick people, but could also identify the type of tumor the patient had. The four cancers are responsible for half of all the world’s fatal tumors.
A total of 177 volunteers aged 20 to 75, some healthy and some with cancer, were tested by breathing onto the nanosensor. The data, processed using advanced mathematical algorithms, showed that the device was very accurate in differentiating between healthy and sick people and among the types of tumors.
The journal article, written by Haick and Prof. Abraham Kuten, head of the oncology department at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, said the sensors could detect minute amounts of chemicals in the tumors.
They added that the device could not only detect the tumors early but be used to monitor improvement in patients’ condition as they undergo treatment for the cancers.
“It could save the lives of thousands of people around the world every year,’ they maintained in the journal.
Haick, who is only 35, recently led of group of scientists from eight universities and companies in Europe that received from the European Union a grant worth €5.4 million for the development of nanometric sensors.
This, he believes, will leaded to the development of a mobile, cheap but sophisticated device that can help doctors diagnose cancer at an early stage.