Breath test hope for lung cancer diagnosis

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Respiratory experts are to evaluate a device for early stage cancer detection. 

Led by a team at Leicester University, the clinical trial is set to commence at the city’s Glenfield Hospital. It is hoped that the LuCID (Lung Cancer Indicator Detection) programme will lead to a non-invasive method of diagnosing early stage lung cancer.

The company behind the device, Cambridge-based Owlstone Nanotech, carried out a health economic analysis and determined that detection of early-stage lung cancer could be increased from the current 14.5 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020, saving around 10,000 lives and £250m of the NHS’s funds.

The device works by measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at low concentrations in a patient’s breath and is claimed to offer a cheaper and smaller alternative to existing detection technologies.

Supported by the Leicester University ’s enterprise and business development team and Leicester’s Hospitals, Owlstone was awarded £1m by the NHS Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) towards clinical trials of the LuCID project.

The aim is to further evaluate Owlstone’s GC-FAIMS (Gas Chromatography – Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry) sensor in a rapid access lung cancer clinic at Glenfield Hospital starting later this year. If successful, the project will pave the way to evaluate the technology in GPs’ surgeries and other hospitals.

In a statement, Billy Boyle, co-founder of Owlstone, said: ‘If you could change only one thing in the fight against cancer, it would be to detect the disease earlier where existing treatments are already proven to save lives.

‘FAIMS technology has the potential to bring a quick and easy-to-use breath test to a GP’s office. Our team will not rest until we help stop the daily devastation that cancer brings to patients and their families.’

The clinical study is being led by Dr Salman Siddiqui, a clinical senior lecturer and adult chest physician at the Leicester University and Glenfield Hospital with results of the trial expected in early 2016.

Dr Siddiqui said: ‘Lung cancer has one of the lowest five-year survival rates of all cancers, however early diagnosis can greatly improve a patient’s prognosis.

‘Current diagnostic procedures such as a chest X-ray, CT scan and bronchoscopy are costly and not without risks so the benefits of a non-invasive, cheaper alternative are clear.’