Nanosensors detect cancer from exhaled breath


Could you have imagined that the cancer can be detected by analysis of your breath?  Researchers at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have developed nanosensors that can detect lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancer via exhaled breath.

A small preliminary study was published in the British Journal of Cancer revealed that nanosensors could distinguish between the breath of healthy patients and those who have cancer.  Although the results needs conformation through a larger and diverse population, but still I think it is a significant advancement.

About the study
Professor Abraham Kuten and his team conducted a study:

  • Exhaled alveolar breath was collected from 177 volunteers aged 20–75 years (patients with lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancers and healthy controls).
  • Breath from cancerous patients was collected before any treatment.
  • The breath of volunteers was examined by a tailor-made array of cross-reactive nanosensors based on organically functionalized gold nanoparticles and gas chromatography linked to the mass spectrometry technique.

Results of study
The study revealed that the nanosensor array:

  • could differentiate between ‘healthy’ and ‘cancerous’ breath,
  • was sensitive enough to detect different cancer types.
  • could distinguish between the breath patterns of different cancers, irrespective of age, gender, lifestyle, and other confounding factors.

The Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS) results showed that each cancer could have a unique pattern of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), when compared with healthy states, but not when compared with other cancer types.

The results though are at early stage in research; do...

lay down a foundation for development of a cancer diagnostic tool, which could be low cost, user friendly, non-invasive and portable.  Dr. Kuten stated that “It could also be an easy way to assess and monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment and detect relapses earlier.”


If you are wondering, how the breath analysis of cancer is possible.  According to researchers, as a cancer grows, the surface of cells emits chemicals.  Researchers have exploited this basic fact to develop the sensors that could be used to detect these chemicals in the breath.

According to Dr. Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK Breast, lung, bowel and prostate cancers are the four most common types of cancer in the UK. They often go undetected until the disease is well established and are the most common causes of death from cancer.”  I think this could be the problem around the world and nanosensor technology might show a great promise to solve it.

Source: medgadget

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