Israeli Technion Institute

Scientists Show Some Positive Results with Devices That ‘Sniff Out’ Cancer

Early detection of cancers remains the key to successfully overcoming the disease. However, cancer screening is not always a hundred percent foolproof, with even experienced doctors falling foul of false positives and inaccurate readings. Recent studies have shown that trained detection dogs are able to identify certain cancers by taking just a few sniffs of a urine sample. What is truly amazing is that these dogs have a 98 percent rate of accuracy.

Employing these dogs is not always ideal in a clinical situation, nor are we sure what exact chemicals these sniffer hounds are detecting. However, scientists have long been working on a way to develop a sort of “electronic nose” that is capable of making a diagnosis in a similar way to dogs.

A group of Finnish researchers published a paper earlier in the year, that claimed a cancer detection rate of 78 percent, by using an electronic device that analysed the airspace located immediately above a urine sample. The device tests for volatile organic compounds connected with prostate cancer. Other research firms, for example the Israeli Technion Institute have made similar claims. The firm is in the process of developing the “NaNose” which can detect lung cancer via a breath test, with a reported accuracy rate of 90 percent.

Some scientists are not convinced that these devices are the solution, while also admitting previous failures in the past have overshadowed the issue. There does seem to be some hope that an “electronic nose” type detecting device could be used as a noninvasive early warning device, that would improve cancer detection rates.


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