A gas-analysing device can spot unusual smell of urine and detect bladder or prostate cancer much earlier than conventional methods.
Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Liverpool who are working on the project jointly said they took inspiration from the presumed ability of dogs to ‘sniff out’ the disease.
"It is thought that dogs can smell cancer, but this is obviously not a practical way for hospitals to diagnose the disease,” said Professor Norman Ratcliffe from the Institute of Biosensor Technology at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). "Taking this principle, however, we have developed a device that can give us a profile of the odour in urine. It reads the gases that chemicals in the urine can give off when the sample is heated.”
Named the Odoreader, the device is said to be 100 per cent accurate and provides results in 30 minutes. It seems to be well positioned to fill a gap in current cancer diagnostics as doctors admit they don’t have any reliable technology at hand to detect bladder cancer markers – something that is commonly used, for example, for early breast or cervical cancer diagnosis. This lack of swift diagnostic tools leads to the disease being frequently spotted at later stages when any treatment becomes more costly and complicated. Only in the UK, 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year.
"Odoreader works by inserting a bottle containing the urine sample into the device. About 30 minutes later the Odoreader is capable of showing the diagnosis on the computer screen if sample derives from a patient with bladder cancer. It is simple to use and could be operated in a doctor's surgery," said Professor Chris Probert, from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Translational Medicine.
The research team has been developing the device for the past four years and believes they are ready to move towards the the next stage. So far, they have analysed samples of urine of 98 patients with urological symptoms and found the device have managed to detect all 24 patients in the sample who were suffering from cancer.
"These results are very encouraging for the development of new diagnostic tools for bladder cancer, but we now need to look at larger samples of patients to test the device further before it can be used in hospitals."
Funding for the Odoreader was partly provided by the Bristol Rotary Club.