an “electronic nose” to screen for lung cancer using breath

Maximilien Carlier, edited by Alexandre Dalifard
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11:50 on 18 December 2022

A European consortium of French and Belgian researchers has developed an “electronic nose” to detect lung cancer using breath. The goal is to detect bronchopulmonary cancer early to increase patients’ life expectancy. In France, there are 30,000 deaths from lung cancer each year.

Tell me what you blow, I’ll tell you what you got. Imagine an “electronic nose” to detect lung cancer using breath. This was revealed by a European consortium of French and Belgian researchers, the Pathacov programme. Objective: early detection of bronchopulmonary cancer to increase patients’ life expectancy. This “nose” is a blue breathing mask connected to a bag. “First, we collect in a bag the patient’s exhaled air, which contains volatile organic compounds”, explains Professor Regis Matran, pulmonologist and scientific leader of this project.

Green, orange or red

These markers are simply smells. The patient’s breathing is therefore analyzed using sensors. A button then lights up as explained by Regis Matran. “Red, you are at risk of getting early brocho-lung cancer. Green, small risk. Orange, we will have to discuss. Support or not. See it more regularly”, emphasizes the pulmonologist.

© Maximilian Carlier / EUROPE 1

A gain in life expectancy

This electronic nose prototype is less invasive than, for example, a breast examination. “The idea is to have a simple, practical tool in the city’s doctors’ offices so that the doctor can explain the screening to the vulnerable patient”, says Arnaud Sherpereel, head of the cardiovascular center at Lille University Hospital. And thus increase the patients’ life expectancy. Because diagnosed at an advanced stage, the outlook for survival is 17% in 5 years. This increases to 80% in case of early detection.

In France, there are 30,000 deaths each year as a result of lung cancer.

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