Cancer-detecting breath test being trialled in UK

A clinical trial to develop a breath test for cancer has been launched by researchers at Cambridge University. The test, which is the first of its kind, analyses molecules that could indicate whether cancer is present in a person's breath at an early stage.

The device is designed to pick up early signs of the disease quickly and painlessly and could save thousands of lives.

The trials of breath biopsy tech will collect samples from 1,500 people in search of odorous molecules known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. The rearrangement of these compounds into certain patterns can indicate the presence of some cancer types.

The PAN Cancer Trial For Early Detection Of Cancer In Breath is being run at Addenbrookes Hospital by Cancer Research UK in conjunction with British company Owlstone Medical, which invented the test.

Rebecca Coldrick, 54, from Cambridge, who is taking part in the trial, was diagnosed in her early 30s with Barrett's oesophagus, a condition linked to acid reflux that can lead to oesophageal cancer. She told the Metro: "I began to live on Gaviscon and other indigestion remedies. I went to the doctors and shortly after I was diagnosed with Barrett's. 'Every two years I have an endoscopy to monitor my condition. 'I think the more research done to monitor conditions like mine and the kinder the detection tests developed, the better."

Lead investigator Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald said: 'We urgently need to develop new tools, like this breath test, which could help to detect and diagnose cancer earlier, giving patients the best chance of surviving their disease.

"Through this clinical trial we hope to find signatures in breath needed to detect cancers earlier. It's the crucial next step in developing this technology."