Dr. Haick, head of development team
Photo: Amos Lavev
A cancer sniffing nose developed by a Technion - Israel Institute of Technology researcher yielded promising results in a study conducted on some 100 people at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
The research showed that the electronic nose is capable of efficiently and accurately distinguishing between cancer patients and healthy people, and could even detect the location and nature of the tumor. The success rate for the detection of the type of tumor stood at 92%.
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One of the most difficult battles in fighting cancer is the early detection of tumors. The sooner it is detected, a wider variety of treatments are made available to the patient who therefore has a greater chance of recovery.
Scientists have known for some time now that dogs are capable of detecting cancer in earlier stages by sniffing the patient's breath. Dogs 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 Israeli "artificial nose" was developed based on this knowledge, and the final product is very close to a dog's olfactory system.
Dr. Hossam Haick, of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute in the Technion's Faculty of Chemical Engineering heads the team that developed the nose.
Some six months ago Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that Haick and his team have proven their system could differentiate between sick and healthy people tested under lab conditions.
Research has now reached the experimental stage of clinical trial, which showed that the nose could not only tell the difference between healthy and sick people, but could also identify the type of tumor in question.
In the trial, which was conducted in cooperation with Professor Abraham Kuten Director of the Rambam Medical Center Oncology Institute, breath samples were taken from 40 healthy people and 62 cancer patients treated in the hospital.
The patients taking part in the experiment suffered from lung, breast, colon, prostate, head and neck cancer.
The participants breathed into bags which were transferred to the Technion for testing, and the results were compared to details of the patients' diseases according to the hospital's records.
In the future, people being tested will be able to breathe directly into the device.
All samples were tested by the electronic nose, and the findings showed that each type of cancer has a particular pattern of characteristic components.
The electronic nose was able to distinguish between healthy and sick patients, and could also identify different types of cancer at a 92% success rate.
Dr. Haick was not available for comment, but Professor Kuten said, "These findings are impressive, but initial, and must be verified in research on a larger number of patients."