News & Views

  • Breath Testing for Indications of Early Disease States
    Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Billy Boyle CEO Owlstone Medical

Breath Testing for Indications of Early Disease States

Jan 24 2019 Read 661 Times

A breathalyser capable of detecting early stage disease developed by Owlstone Medical, is to be used in the PAN Cancer trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath, which has been launched in partnership with Cancer Research UK.

The 1,500 patient study aims to identify volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be used as breath-based biomarkers to detect and differentiate different cancer types, thereby improving early detection. Initiated in patients with suspected oesophageal and stomach cancers, the trial will expand to prostate, kidney, bladder, liver and pancreatic cancers, with research expected to run through 2021.

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.”

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “There is 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.”

Dr David Crosby, head of early detection research at Cancer Research UK, said: “Technologies such as this breath test have the potential to revolutionise the way we detect and diagnose cancer in the future. 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.”

Cancer Research UK has made research into this area one of its top priorities and will invest more than £20 million a year in early detection research by 2019.

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