Can a simple breath test detect cancer?

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald

The PAN cancer trial will ask people to breathe into a mask for 10 minutes. Researchers will then try and detect molecules called ‘volatile organic compounds’ (VOCs) to see if they can signal cancer.

The clinical trial will involve both healthy volunteers, to better understand ‘normal’ VOC levels, and patients with a suspected cancer diagnosis to look at whether the level of VOCs in their breath is different. The trial, which began in January 2019, is currently recruiting patients with oesophageal and stomach cancers but will expand to include patients with liver, prostate, kidney, bladder and pancreatic cancers.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald (right), Chief investigator of the trial, and co-lead for the Early Detection Programme, 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.”

If the trial is successful, researchers hope they can identify cancer sooner, reduce the need for invasive testing and roll this simple test out to GP’s surgeries.

The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre is running the PAN Cancer trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath in collaboration with Owlstone Medical to test their Breath Biopsy® technology.

Click below for the story from ITV News


Patient on the NIHR supported PAN trial
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