Device shown to 'smell' prostate cancer in men in trial

The device uses gas chromatography to detect cancer in urine samples, which researchers said could eliminate the need for unnecessary PSA tests and biopsies.
By Stephen Feller   |   Feb. 11, 2016 at 11:55 AM

LIVERPOOL, England, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A device successfully detected prostate cancer in men during a trial by "smelling" the disease using a gas chromatography sensor system, researchers reported.

Researchers in England conducted a pilot test of the device, Odoreader, with men being treated at urology clinics, finding it could identify compounds allowing doctors to diagnose cancer using urine samples.

Gas chromatography, or GC, sensor systems, which analyze molecules in a substance or the air, are partially inspired by studies showing dogs could smell cancer, said the team of researchers, which developed the Odoreader in 2009.

"There is currently no accurate test for prostate cancer, the vagaries of the PSA test indicators can sometimes result in unnecessary biopsies, resulting in psychological toll, risk of infection from the procedure and even sometimes missing cancer cases," Norman Radcliffe, a professor at the University of West England, said in a press release. "Our aim is to create a test that avoids this procedure at initial diagnosis by detecting cancer in a non-invasive way by smelling the disease in men's urine."

For the study, published in the Journal of Breath Research, researchers recruited 155 men at two urology clinics who had symptoms indicative of possible cancers. Of the men, 58 percent were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 24 had bladder cancer, and 73 had haematuria, or a poor urinary stream, but no cancer.

The device was able to identify prostate cancer samples with 95 percent sensitivity and 96 percent specificity, and bladder cancer at 96 percent sensitivity and 100 percent specificity.

Researchers said they are looking for funding for a full clinical trial in order to continue showing the efficacy of the device.

"If this test succeeds at full medical trial it will revolutionize diagnostics," Dr. Raj Prasad, a urologist at the North Bristol National Health Service Trust in England, said. "Even with detailed template biopsies there is a risk that we may fail to detect prostate cancer in some cases. Currently indicators such as diagnosed prostatomegaly [enlarged prostate] and unusually high PSA levels can lead to recommendations for biopsy if there is a concern that cancer may be prevalent. An accurate urine test would mean that many men who currently undergo prostate biopsy may not need to do so."

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