Liverpool

Scientists devise breath test for lung cancer

A chest X-ray showing cancer in the right lung. Image copyright Kallista Images
Image caption There were around 43,500 cases of lung cancer in the UK in 2011

A breath test that detects early signs of lung cancer and lowers the disease's death rate could be used by the NHS.

Scientists have found droplets in the mouth reveal genetic changes that show if a patient has early stages of the disease.

University of Liverpool and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers said the next step was to develop handheld testing devices.

More people die of lung cancer in the UK than any other cancer.

'Urgent need'

Scientists have developed a technique for analysing the vapour inside the container in which the cells were growing and showed it was capable of distinguishing which of the two different genes were faulty in the cells.

Dr Mike Davies, from the University of Liverpool Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme, said the findings published in the British Journal of Cancer show it was "theoretically possible to develop a test that could diagnose early lung cancer in the breath of patients".

"There's an urgent need to diagnose lung cancers earlier when treatment is more effective."

Nell Barrie from Cancer Research UK said: "These early results raise the prospect of a cheap, effective test to diagnose lung cancer. But we're still a way off from the large-scale trials necessary before this technique could be used widely."

The latest figures by Cancer Research UK show there were around 43,500 cases of lung cancer in the UK in 2011.

In the same year there were around 35,200 deaths from the disease.

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