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A Breathalyzer for Cancer

A California-based company has developed a breath test that can identify lung cancer with 83 percent accuracy and can distinguish between different types of cancer.

What’s the Latest Development?

A California start up has developed a breath test that can diagnose lung cancer with a 83 percent accuracy and distinguish between different types of the disease. The procedures which currently exist to test for lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, result in too many false positives, meaning unnecessary biopsies and radiation imaging. The new devices works by drawing breath “through a series of filters to dry it out and remove bacteria, then [carries it] over an array of sensors.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The company is now testing a version of the machine 1,000 times more accurate than its latest model, which could increase the accuracy of diagnoses to 90 percent, the level likely needed to take the device to market. Because the machine is not specific to a particular group of chemicals, the breath tester could, in principle, test for any disease that has a metabolic breath signature, for example, tuberculosis. “A breath signature could give a snapshot of overall health,” says the company’s founder, Paul Rhodes.

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