“Electronic Nose” Offers Mesothelioma Diagnosis Hope

The British medical information site, Medical News Today, reports that researchers in Italy and The Netherlands “have developed an ‘electronic nose’ that appears to be able to tell if someone has Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM) just from sampling their breath.” This device is known as Cyranose 320 and these researchers from the Department of Respiratory Diseases at the University of Bari and the Department of Respiratory Medicine in the Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands hope this medical instrument will have “diagnostic potential for MPM.” Currently, the unique cancer known as mesothelioma is extremely difficult to diagnose early, often only being recognized in its later stages. This has led to poor treatment success rates for patients and a short average life expectancy of just a few months to a year and a half. In fact, the American Cancer Society explains that only five to 10 percent of mesothelioma patients currently survive more than five years after being diagnosed with this cancer. However, with this new diagnostic potential, researchers and doctors hope to change those statistics. By diagnosing this cancer earlier, patients will gain greater access to a wide range of treatments, including effective multimodal courses many specialists promote. Frequently involving a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, many patients diagnosed with late-stage mesothelioma are unable to undergo these more physically-taxing treatment regimens. According to Medical News Today, Cyranose 320 will detect this cancer by analyzing “the ‘breathprint’ of volatile organic compounds in the subject's breath sample.” The news source explains that this diagnostic device was able to differentiate patients with MPM from healthy patients who have suffered extended asbestos exposure but have not developed mesothelioma in at least 80 percent of cases. The medical news resource explains that generally, the diagnosis of this disease is done by a thorascopic biopsy, “where a thin tube is inserted through an incision into the chest to allow removal of a tissue sample.” However, this diagnostic procedure itself is dangerous, the British medical site explains, presenting the risk of a collapsed lung, embolism, and blood loss. With the introduction of this electronic breath test, patients will no longer have to undertake these additional risks. The medical news resource goes on to explain that to carry out this study, “the researchers recruited 13 patients with biopsy-confirmed MPM (mean age 61), 13 healthy individuals without asbestos exposure (mean age 52), and 13 people with known long-term certified professional exposure to asbestos but no signs of MPM (mean age 68).” According to these results, an 80 percent accuracy rate was seen between “individuals with MPM and those with long-term asbestos exposure and no MPM, and an 85% accuracy in distinguishing MPM individuals from healthy individuals.” After testing these figures several times, Medical News Today explains the same results were seen. If these successful results are confirmed by future studies, these researchers said they believed this electronic nose could “be developed into a non-invasive, safe tool for diagnosing mesothelioma, thus reducing the risk of complications for patients.”
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