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New breath test for cancer


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http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,16 ... 21,00.html

By Robyn Riley

September 04, 2005

A SIMPLE, cheap breath test that can detect cancer early is set to revolutionise diagnosis of the disease.

The test, the brainchild of an Australian scientist, works like a breathalyser and could become as common in doctors' surgeries as stethoscopes.

The test will initially be used to detect lung cancer, but is also being developed to test for other cancers, organ transplant rejection, kidney disease, diabetes and tuberculosis.

Perth-raised Dr Michael Phillips, who spent 25 years developing a device called Heartsbreath, said it would save lives.

"If lung cancer is detected at an early stage and treated aggressively, the chances of survival are greatly increased," he said from his New Jersey home this week.

"Our human clinical studies confirm the breath test can detect lung cancer at stage one."

His device - modelled on breathalyser machines used by police - works on a process called oxidative stress.

Dr Phillips, 62, said a disease generates excessive amounts of free radicals. "Free radicals oxidise cell membranes, releasing the volatile organic compounds that are exhaled in the breath," Dr Phillips said. "This gives each disease a unique fingerprint."

His device captures these compounds in the breath on activated carbon.

These are then separated and identified.

Dr Phillips is chief executive of US-based Menssana Research, a company that works with the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

His Heartsbreath test has US Food and Drug Administration approval for use in detection of organ rejection in heart transplant patients.

Dr Phillips said the test was risk-free.

Patients put on a nose clip and breathe into a tube for two minutes. The sample is captured in a steel tube and the contents are then analysed.

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