Hopes raised for lung cancer breath test

Scientists have taken a step closer to developing a lung cancer breath test by detecting genetic changes in vapour.

A team of scientists from the University of Liverpool and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a means of identifying genetic faults in cells found in vapour, laying the foundation for a lung cancer breath test.

Dr Mike Davies, leader of the study, said: “This is a potential step towards developing a handheld device that could aid lung cancer screening and diagnosis.”

“It could also be used to help match patients to the right treatment by providing doctors with a snapshot of the genetic makeup of the individual tumour.”

Despite the breakthrough, the scientists stressed they will need to undertake further testing on lung cancer patients to ensure the technique can be effectively applied to a breath test.

Nell Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said “the early results raise the prospect of a cheap, effective test” but warned “we’re still a long way off from the large scale trials necessary before this technique could be used widely.”

Lung cancer remains the biggest cancer killer in the UK, claiming around 35,000 lives per year. Survival rates are poor due to the difficulty in securing an early diagnosis of the disease.