New Technion device can ‘smell’ cancers

By Nathan Jeffay, March 1, 2013
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Within a few years, doctors may be able to detect various types of cancer from exhaled breath, if plans to bring an Israeli invention to the market go smoothly.

Hossam Haick, a professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has been working for five years on the “Na Nose,” a piece of nanotechnology that analyses hundreds of different gases that are contained in breath, and checks if the levels point to cancerous growths. It even has the ability to differentiate between benign and malignant growths.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has signed a deal with American medical company Alpha Szenszor to make the invention — which scored 88 per cent accuracy in tests — widely available. Eventually they hope that it will be contained in a low-cost, portable device, capable of detecting other types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and other diseases.

Dr Haick started working on his invention after reading that dogs — hardly welcome guests in hygienic hospital settings or great communicators when it comes to writing medical records — are able to detect some strains of cancer using their sense of smell. His project has been to “take the same model as the dog and use it in an electronic and digital way, controlling in input and reading the output clearly.”

Dr Haick, a renowned Christian-Arab scientist, said that the device will not just make doctors’ work easier, but will actually save lives. It will detect gastric cancer, ovarian cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer and others. One of the most important breakthroughs is that it will detect lung cancer, which currently cannot be screened.

“Due to the lack of side-effects, if relying on patients going for CT scans or X-Rays, one rarely detects lung cancer in the early stages,” said Dr Haick.

He added: “In cases of lung cancer caught in the early stages, stages one and two, 70 per cent of patients survive for five years; at stages three and four the survival rate is 10 to 15 per cent. So it’s clear that early detection will increase survival rates.”

Last updated: 12:45pm, March 1 2013