A dog-inspired electronic nose can detect prostate cancer from urine with nearly 80 per cent accuracy.
In a pilot study published recently in the Journal of Urology, Finish researchers have shown the ChemPro100 eNose is at least as effective as conventional blood testing used as the first stage diagnostic tool for prostate cancer.
The eNose analyses headspace above samples of urine, which was determined as more stable and convenient to use than patient’s breath.
"The performance with the eNose matches that of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test results in previous literature and the results are achieved rapidly and in a completely non-invasive manner,” said lead scientist Niku Oksala, from Tampere University in Finland.
"PSA is known to correlate positively with prostate volume, which is a potential source of diagnostic error when comparing prostate cancer with benign disease. According to our current analysis, prostate volume did not affect the eNose results, potentially indicating high specificity of our sensor array to cancer."
The inspiration to develop a cancer-detecting eNose came from dogs, who are known to be able to sense cancer in their owners. Although experimental studies demonstrated that trained sniffer dogs really can smell cancer, the inconsistent performance of the animals meant they have never been really used in diagnostics.
The electronic nose technology, popular in the food industry and agriculture, enables overcoming the shortcomings of the dogs while maintaining high level of sensitivity
"eNoses have been studied in various medical applications, including early detection of cancer, especially from exhaled air," said Oksala.
"However, exhaled air is a problematic sample material since it requires good co-operation and technique from the patient and immediate analysis, while urine is simple to attain and store, and is therefore more feasible in clinical practice.
The eNose consists of a cluster of electronic sensors responding to odours. In addition to being successful in 78 per cent of cases by identifying patiets with prostate cancer, the technique also offers a very low rate of wrongly selected healthy patients.
The trial involved 65 patients with diagnosed prostate cancer and non-cancerous prostate enlargement.