Medical Blogs

March 3, 2007

Breath Test Detects Lung Cancer In Early Stages

A new breath test has been reported to detect lung cancer in its early stage. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and doctors believe that early detection could offer sufferers their best chance for early survival.

Dr. Michael Phillips, CEO of Menssana Research, the company that developed the breath test, said, "We developed a breathalyzer that is one billion times more sensitive than those the police use to measure alcohol in the breath. It detects around 200 different chemicals in a person's breath, and some of these chemicals are markers of cancer. A breath test has great advantages over most other medical tests - it is completely safe, painless and non-invasive. All you have to do is breathe gently into a tube for two minutes. There are no potentially dangerous x-rays to worry about, and it will certainly be a lot less expensive than chest imaging."

In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health that will be published in Cancer Biomarkers, researchers studied 404 smokers and ex-smokers aged over 60. The breath test predicted lung cancer with almost the same accuracy as computerized tomography, or chest CT, the best screening test for lung cancer currently available.

Early detection is essential to save lives. Lung cancer affects over 170,000 Americans annually and more than 95% of them are dead within 5 years if the tumor has metastasized to other organs, versus only 20% if the tumor is found while it is still confined to the lung.

The breath test will not be available in the USA until approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but may be available sooner in the European Union.

Menssana Research is currently developing breath tests to detect several other diseases in their early stages, including pulmonary tuberculosis, breast cancer, and ischemic heart disease. The FDA has already approved the Heartsbreath test for heart transplant rejection. Dr. Phillips said he hopes that physicians and patients will eventually consider a breath test the way we think of a chest x-ray or blood test: as an inexpensive and convenient screening test which can detect several diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages.

Menssana Research, Inc.

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