According to a group of researchers at the University of Liverpool, in the U.K., their newly developed diagnosis tool can sniff out prostate cancer in men’s urine. The tool was successfully tested on 155 male patients with three different types of urological cancers.
If the instrument is approved for clinics, it could mark the end of an era of invasive diagnostic procedures for men. The tool has an integrated gas chromatography (GC)-sensor and makes use of statistical methods to estimate whether the patient has cancer.
A research paper on the finding was published this week in the Journal of Breath Research.
Of the 155 study participants, 58 had prostate cancer, about 25 bladder cancer, and the rest had a condition called haematuria, or blood in their urine, but no cancer. The trial showed that the device can sense volatile compounds in the urine that are tied to specific types of cancer.
Prof. Chris Probert, lead author of the research paper, explained that his team has been working on the instrument for years. In the meantime, they borrowed the gas chromatography sensor from a University of the West of England’s (UWE Bristol) team.
The sensor also known as “Odoreader” can easily detect specific patterns in men’s urine and compare them to patterns matching cancer from a database. The algorithms to do the statistical calculations were set in place by researchers at UWE Bristol and Liverpool University.
The research team noted that patients and doctors alike are in great need of spotting urological cancers before it is too late. Doctors often say that the earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome.
Scientists currently plan to further test the diagnosis tool and design a device that can be used by non-professionals as well. They currently hope that the industry would become interested in the tool and help them further develop the device. The team wants the tool to be so user-friendly, that it can be used just about everywhere from operating rooms to patients’ beside.
Researchers noted that the lack of accuracy of current diagnosis tools for prostate cancer including the PSA test indicators cause patients a lot of psychological distress and force them to undergo unnecessary procedures such as additional biopsies to confirm the results. There is also a great risk of infection, while sometimes cancer can be misdiagnosed.
Prof. Probert likened the Odoreader to an ‘electronic nose.’ The researcher said that his team drew inspiration for their work from dogs that can smell cancer in urine samples.
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