“Electronic Nose” Sniffs out Mesothelioma

August 3, 2012  |  Mesothelioma

A new medical device has been developed by researchers at the University of South Wales, Australia, that will detect malignant mesothelioma in the early stages of patients. The device, called the “Electronic Nose," is essentially a breath test that has the ability to differentiate between benign and malignant mesothelioma.

Early detection is paramount to the survival rate of mesothelioma patients, and the breath test could help clinicians more aggressively treat the disease in the beginning stages. According to Deborah Yates, Associate Professor and study team leader of the Electronic Nose, early detection greatly increases the chance of giving patients the right treatment to effectively stop the spread of the disease.

The study of the device, published in the European Respiratory Journal, conducted breath samples from 18 patients with asbestos related disease, 20 patients with malignant mesothelioma and 42 control subjects. The Electronic nose was able to detect the disease with an 88 percent accuracy rate.

 Researchers from the University of Bari in Italy and the University of Amsterdam developed a similar device last year. The device, called Cyranose 320, detected malignant mesothelioma with an 80 percent accuracy rate.

Mesothelioma is an incredibly aggressive and rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Medical researchers have struggled to develop successful treatment methods, and as a result, the disease remains one of the most difficult cancers to treat. In the last 15 years, however, the medical community has rallied and breakthroughs in surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have shown signs of improvement.

Dr. David Sugarbaker has pioneered extrapleural pneumonectomy, a surgical procedure that marked the first significant treatment option to yield positive results in patient survival rates. Chemotherapy drugs, Alimta and Cisplatin have also produced advancements in patient conditions when combined with high-dose radiation. All of these treatments are greatly heightened by early detection.

Recently, leaders in the mesothelioma community gathered to discuss the future of mesothelioma treatment at the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) 2012 Symposium. Researchers and Clinicians shared a general consensus on, quite possibly, the greatest hope in mesothelioma treatment being the relatively new study of Immunotherapy, a medical science that uses segments of the immune system to treat the disease. Immunotherapy also incorporates the use of cancer vaccines to both prevent disease and eliminate any existing cancer. Although studies involving passive immunotherapy are still in clinical trials, researchers are incredibly optimistic about future treatment options.

Currently, the non-invasive breath test is still in the early stages of clinical trials. The development of the breath test device in Australia combined with the general advancements in mesothelioma care presented at the MARF symposium demonstrate a united front in detection, prevention and treatment.

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