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UK study evaluates ‘revolutionary’ device for early lung cancer detection

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Respiratory researchers in Leicester are to lead a clinical trial into a potentially ground-breaking “breath test” to detect lung cancer.

The trial, involving University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Leicester University, is set to get underway at the city’s Glenfield Hospital.

It is hoped that the LuCID (Lung Cancer Indicator Detection) programme will lead to a non-invasive method of diagnosing lung cancer in the early stages.

The trial will evaluate a sensor for what is being referred to as GC-FAIMS (Gas Chromatography – Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry) or FAIMS for short.

“FAIMS technology has the potential to bring a quick and easy-to-use breath test to a GP’s office”

Billy Boyle, Owlstone

The device works by measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at low concentrations in a patient’s breath and offers a cheaper and smaller alternative to existing detection technologies.

The company behind the device, Owlstone Nanotech, estimate that detection of early-stage lung cancer could be increased from the current 14.5% to 25% by 2020.

It was awarded £1m by the NHS Small Business Research Initiative towards clinical trials. The aim is to evaluate the device in a rapid access lung cancer clinic, starting later this year.

If successful, the project will pave the way to evaluate the technology in GPs’ surgeries and other hospitals.

Owlstone claimed the technology had the potential to “bring a quick and easy-to-use breath test to a GP’s office”.

The clinical study is being led by Dr Salman Siddiqui, a clinical senior lecturer and adult chest physician. Results from the trial are expected in early 2016.

Dr Siddiqui said: “Current diagnostic procedures such as a chest X-ray, CT scan and bronchoscopy are costly and not without risks so the benefits of a non-invasive, cheaper alternative are clear.

“This project will seek to identify and evaluate biomarkers in order to improve the accuracy and reliability of breath diagnostic methods,” he said.

“We will also be aiming to establish FAIMS as a faster, less expensive and more portable alternative to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) for breath diagnosis applications,” he added.

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