Menssana Research reports that they have developed a breath test to detect lung cancer at an early stage. "We developed a breathalyzer that is one billion times more sensitive than those the police use to measure alcohol in the breath,” states Michael Phillips, M.D., CEO.
“It detects around 200 different chemicals in a person's breath, and some of these chemicals are markers of cancer. A breath test has great advantages over most other medical tests. It is completely safe, painless, and noninvasive. All you have to do is breathe gently into a tube for two minutes. There are no potentially dangerous x-rays to worry about, and it will certainly be a lot less expensive than chest imaging."
The NIH funded this study, which will be published in Cancer Biomarkers. The researchers studied 404 smokers and ex-smokers aged over 60. The breath test predicted lung cancer with almost the same accuracy as computerized tomography or chest CT, according to the scientists.
Menssana says it is also developing breath tests to detect other diseases in their early stages, including pulmonary tuberculosis, breast cancer, and ischemic heart disease. The FDA already approved the Heartsbreath test for heart transplant rejection.
Dr. Phillips said he hopes that physicians and patients will eventually consider a breath test the way we think of a chest x-ray or blood test: as an inexpensive and convenient screening test that can detect several diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages.