Mesothelioma is lethal for one key reason: The cancer is usually detected in late stages. Because of this, researchers have been seeking a way to detect mesothelioma or biomarkers associated with the disease in early stages. One test, which was reported a few months back in this blog, is to test the blood of persons exposed to asbestos to look for early onset markers. Now, it appears that researchers at Antwerp University and Ghent University Hospital may have found a way to detect this aggressive cancer using a breath test.
Early Detection Breath Test for Mesothelioma
Breath analysis, known as breathomics, is a non-invasive process, which the Belgium researchers believe can be used in early detection for mesothelioma. The concept of breath analysis dates back to Ancient Greece, where physicians believed that smelling the breath of a patient could help them identify diseases. Modern medicine traces breath analysis to Linus Pauling, who demonstrated that volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, exist in trace amounts in the breath of a person. Pauling breathed into a tube that froze his breath, then analyzed the frozen moisture using gas chromatography.
One of the more common advances of his research includes the breathalyzer used by police departments worldwide to test drivers for the presence of alcohol. Clinical uses of breath analysis include checking radiation levels in cancer patients undergoing treatment, testing for pulmonary tuberculosis, to determine how well the body is adapting to a heart transplant, and whether someone may have breast cancer.
The researchers believe that because mesothelioma is most often associated with exposure to asbestos, breathomics can be a cost-effective tool for early detection. The tool they are employing in their studies applies chromatographic, spectrometric, and sensor techniques that can detect organic molecules in the breath. Sabrina Lagniau, lead researcher for the project, believes they can develop a breath testing device that can be used for point-of-care biomarker tests. If so, an annual physical could include blowing into a tube.
In developing the device, the team believes research should focus on persons employed in high-risk careers with no signs of asbestos-related illness. They further believe there is a need to isolate VOCs, which are cancer-specific. If successful, gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) can be avoided. Currently, the GC-MS is the best option, but it is expensive, time-consuming, and requires expert analysis. Redesigning existing electronic noses (e-noses) to identify the cancer-related VOCs is the next step researchers are working on.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us online today or call us at 800-369-0899. The Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers of Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler pay close attention to news related to early detection and effective treatments. We represent clients throughout Pennsylvania including in Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County, including in Philadelphia and New Jersey.