Scientists have developed a simple breath analysis test that has the potential for the screening and diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer, commonly known as colon cancer or bowel cancer, is a cancer from uncontrolled cell growth in the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine), or in the appendix.
The test has come about from researchers based in Italy and led by Dr Donato Altomare at the University Aldo Moro of Bari. According to Time, for their study, the scientists collected exhaled breath samples from 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy controls to examine the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with cancer.
Thus, the breath-test technology relies on the idea that the biology of tumours can lead to the production of specific VOCs. These are combinations of chemicals unlikely in a healthy person.
Web MD reports that by using a complex mathematical formula, the scientists were able to determine that colorectal cancer patients had a different selective VOC pattern compared with the control group. The technique was able to identify patients with colorectal cancer with an accuracy of more than 75%. The findings suggest that this method has considerable potential.
The technique of breath sampling has an advantage in that it is very easy and non-invasive. However, as Medical News notes, the researchers realize that there is considerable work left to be done, and it is still unclear which breath chemicals should be evaluated or what specific statistical method is most accurate for eliminating cases of colon cancer.