Global Health Asia-Pacific July 2022 | Page 54

Breath tests maybe key to cancer detection
For instance , a team in the UK has developed a breath test that has detected oesophageal and gastric cancer in a clinical trial of 335 patients with 85 percent accuracy . Under current practice , such malignancies are usually diagnosed through an endoscopy , a procedure where a probe with a camera is inserted into the body via the mouth to examine tissues . But this is not suitable for screening large numbers of people due to its invasiveness and cost . As a result , many oesophageal and gastric cancers are diagnosed late .
“ We have been able to validate our cancer breath test for oesophageal and gastric cancer on a larger group of patients from multiple centres for the first time , � said �rofessor �eorge Hanna , lead author of the study at Imperial College London , in a press release . ��astric and oesophageal cancers are mostly diagnosed at a late stage when curative treatment might not be possible . There is a real need for early detection of cancer when symptoms are non�specific and shared by benign diseases . �ur breath test could be used as a first�line test before invasive investigations . Early detection of cancer gives patients more treatment options and saves more lives .”
Similarly promising results have been observed by Dr Yazbek ’ s team in a pilot study on oesophageal cancer , while other ongoing research is also looking at lung , breast , and pancreatic malignancies .
Another reason to be optimistic about breath analysis as a cancer diagnostic tool is that the technology has already proved useful in diagnosing other conditions .
The hydrogen breath test , for example , is now regularly used to diagnose gastrointestinal problems like lactose intolerance , irritable bowel syndrome , and small intestine bacterial overgrowth by measuring hydrogen gas levels in the breath . Similarly , the urea breath test can detect the presence of helicobacter pylori , a bacterium that infects the stomach or the intestine and can increase the risk of gastritis , ulcers , and stomach cancer .
The technology is already able to examine breath samples in all its components , stressed Dr Yazbek . The next step is to identify reliable cancer biomarkers in enough people so that it can be used in the oncology clinic in a meaningful way . “ We just need to convince the people with money to direct the funding that way ,” he quipped . n
52 JULY 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com