U.S.-based biotech firm Volatile Analysis‘ non-profit Hudson Alpha have developed a chewing gum that may help detect cancer. According to the company’s scientists, each type of cancer produces a unique set of chemicals known as volatile organic compound. These chemicals differ in composition per cancer type, in the same way a healthy lung produces compounds that are different from a diseased lung, the scientists explained. Researchers said the gum absorbs these volatile compounds from a person’s saliva. The chewing gum is then analyzed after 15 minutes of chewing.
The chewing gum detects cancer by identifying cancer-related compounds that are present in the mouth. Analyzing the gum sample may help clinicians identify the type of cancer that a patient has, said Volatile Analysis president and CEO Katherine Bazemore. The biotech company has now developed different chewing gums for detecting pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer. The chewing gum is only in its testing phase, but the company hopes to make the product available to physicians next year.
Other cancer detection technologies on the way
Other innovations in cancer detection have also been introduced this year.
British researchers have developed a new breath test designed to diagnose both esophagus cancer and stomach cancer by examining levels of certain chemicals present in the breath. As part of the study, researchers collected breath samples from more than 300 participants. According to the study, the breath test exhibited an overall accuracy of 85 percent. The test also showed an 80 percent sensitivity and 81 percent specificity in detecting cancer, the researchers said. (Related: Learn more about the latest innovations in cancer treatments at CancerSolutions.news)
“A breath test could be used as a non-invasive, first-line test to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies. In the longer term this could also mean earlier diagnosis and treatment, and better survival…Because cancer cells are different to healthy ones, they produce a different mixture of chemicals. This study suggests that we may be able detect these differences and use a breath test to indicate which patients are likely to have cancer of the esophagus and stomach, and which do not. However, these findings must be validated in a larger sample of patients before the test could be used in the clinic,” wrote researcher Dr Sheraz Markar in an article in ScienceDaily.com.
The findings were presented at the European Cancer Congress 2017.
Health experts at the University of California San Diego have also developed a new blood test that uses a particular DNA to determine where a tumor is growing. According to the researchers, tumors compete for nutrients and space as they grow, which triggers death in normal cells. When normal cells die, they release DNA called CpG methylation haplotypes in the process. This DNA was found to be able to identify infected tissues and where exactly the tumor is located, researchers said.
The new blood test screens for this DNA to help detect cancer. However, the study’s lead researcher stressed that the new method is a proof of concept, and that the research may require the help of oncologists if clinical trials will be conducted. The findings were published in the journal Nature Genetics.
WHO data on cancer prevalence
The findings on recent innovations may show potential in boosting cancer detection and diagnosis. Cancer remains the second leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO, cancer was associated with about 8.8 million deaths in 2015 alone. Data also showed that approximately 70 percent of cancer-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
The WHO estimates that new cases of cancer will increase by about 70 percent over the next twenty years. According to the WHO, the total annual economic cost of cancer was $1.16 trillion.