Israeli Team Heads Research Into ‘Electronic Nose’ To Sniff Out Cancer

By Avner Meyrav, NoCamels April 08, 2013 Comments

Diagnosing stomach cancer is not an easy task. It normally involves unpleasant procedures and sometimes full anesthesia. Israeli, Chinese and Latvian researchers may now have found a way to reduce the stress of complicated procedures, by developing a test that can “sniff out” stomach cancer.

The test is based on existing “electronic nose” technology – sensors so accurate, that they can pick up scents that the human nose never could. According to the researchers, cancerous molecules have a specific smell that can be identified using this electronic nose. When tested on 130 Chinese patients with digestive problems, the device was accurate 90 percent of the time in distinguishing between cancerous and benign conditions.

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Today, the common procedure for testing stomach cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease, is through gastroscopy. The unpleasant procedure involves inserting a flexible tube equipped with a camera into the stomach through the mouth. Not only does the recently developed test have the potential to replace this procedure, it also proved successful in distinguishing between early and late-stage cancer. This is critical, the researchers say, since today, only about 20 percent of patients are diagnosed early enough for tumor removal to be possible.

In the past, similar devices were able to “sniff out” other forms of cancer, such as skin, breast, kidneys, urinary tract, lung and fallopian tube cancer.

The study’s results were published in The British Journal of Cancer. The Israeli team, which headed the research, is based at the chemical engineering faculty at the Technion, under the helm of Professor Hosam Haick. The Chinese team was from the Anhei Province University Hospital and the Latvian team from the University of Latvia.

Photo by Dennis Wong

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