Scientists are working to create a sensor with mid-infrared lasers to detect biomarker gases exhaled in the breath of a person with cancer.
It has already been shown that dogs can detect cancer by sniffing the exhaled breath of cancer patients. For example, by smelling breath samples, dogs identified breast and lung cancer patients with accuracies of 88 and 97 percent.
Lead researcher Dr. Patrick McCann believes that it is possible to develop easy-to-use detection devices for cancer, particularly for hard-to-detect cancers like lung cancer.
McCann said that they need sensors that detect these gas phase cancer biomarkers.
"A device that measures cancer specific gases in exhaled breath would change medical research, as we know it," he said.
"We have developed laser-based methods to detect molecules. Mid-infrared lasers can measure suspected cancer biomarkers-ethane, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde," he added.
He will be using nanotechnology to improve laser performance and shrink laser systems, which would allow battery-powered operation of a handheld sensor device/
McCann also said that science and technology exist to support the development of a new tool to detect cancer, but the research will take from five to 10 years to get low-cost devices into the clinic.
The study appears in Integrative Cancer Therapies.