A breath test that may save lives

Early detection of a disease can mean the difference between recovering and surviving or suffering and dying. For those diagnosed with mesothelioma, they face a particularly grim and uncertain future. The illness caused by asbestos has a 50-year latency period from the time of exposure and few symptoms that are specific.

Diagnosis usually does not come until the illness is in the advanced stages.

Tragically, time is not on the mesothelioma victim’s side. Detecting certain biomarkers in the blood or lung fluid has not yielded success in early detection. Currently, malignant mesothelioma has a survival rate of up to one year following the diagnosis.

Owlstone Medical is hoping to change that.

Currently, the medical manufacturer based in the United Kingdom is testing a breathalyzer used to detect mesothelioma. Pending clinical trials will validate specific “signatures” associated with the disease. Breath Biopsy technology will analyze chemicals in test subjects already diagnosed with the illness.

The tests are based on the theory that specific types of cancer result in various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) expelled when breathing out. Those participating in the study will have to breathe into the device for ten minutes. From there, the VOCs undergo laboratory analysis.

Should the trial bear positive results, a less invasive and more affordable option to detect mesothelioma may encourage victims of the deadly disease to get tested. Early detection means early medical help that can stem the progression and provide more effective treatment.

Since the first diagnosis of the disease, mesothelioma victims and their families have been hoping for something that may be their precious commodity.

Time.

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