‘Electronic Nose’ Provides Hope for Early Mesothelioma Detection

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have developed a breath test to help diagnose malignant mesothelioma. Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, after the United States and Western Europe, and the second highest age-adjusted mortality rate. Certain studies suggest that for every four recorded mesothelioma cases, at least one goes unreported. This is due to a number of factors, including unsophisticated detection techniques, inadequate healthcare systems, and lack of proper record keeping.

This new detection technique, referred to as E-Nose, could aid tremendously in early mesothelioma detection. The majority of mesothelioma patients are given a poor prognosis (median survival rate is between 9 and 12 months) because the cancer is not often caught until its latest stages. Mesothelioma is notoriously hard to detect, due in no small part to the extended latency period, which can be anywhere between 20 and 50 years. Mesothelioma is directly caused by asbestos exposure, which often occurs through occupation, and is most common in those workers involved in the shipbuilding, automotive, and construction industries. Mesothelioma attorneys urge those who may have been exposed to asbestos at any point in their life to undergo routine checkups to ensure any abnormalities are caught right away.

If caught early enough, the prognosis for mesothelioma patients improves dramatically as doctors are able to prescribe immediate treatment to stop the cancer from spreading. Unfortunately, conventional techniques for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses, such as CT scans and blood testing, are often invasive, and are actually not all that reliable. Invasive techniques are dangerous to older patients, who account for the majority of mesothelioma cases. The E-Nose offers promise for a non-invasive, accurate, and potentially life-saving technique.

The UNSW team analyzed breath samples from 20 malignant mesothelioma patients, 18 asbestos-related disease patients, and 42 control subjects. Patients were correctly identified with their specific ailment in 88% of cases, using the carbon polymer array electronic nose, which analyzes exhaled breath. The E-Nose is a potential and promising tool for screening those high-risk mesothelioma populations.

Globally, mesothelioma deaths and diagnoses are increasing, due to improved disease recognition. Previously, because mesothelioma exhibits symptoms common of other, less serious diseases, it was mistaken for illnesses such as pneumonia, and victims died without ever reporting the true cause of their suffering.

The E-Nose measures the molecular patterns in exhaled breath. The technique does not require any invasive procedures or exposure to any radiation, as most conventional techniques do. This is an important development, because mesothelioma victims are of advanced age, and are vulnerable to and sometimes not able to undergo such intense procedures.

The UNSW results were published in the European Respiratory Journal and have received much recognition and esteem from mesothelioma advocates around the world. Studies of this type of device have also been conducted by Italian and Dutch researchers, whose findings were published in the Elsevier Lung Cancer Journal. This study produced similar findings, with an accuracy rate of 84.6%.

The test also distinguishes between those with malignant pleural mesothelioma and subjects with exposure to asbestos without the cancer. This proves that exhaled breath in patients with mesothelioma has distinct molecular characteristics, a groundbreaking discovery that will aid in development of mesothelioma detection and overall survival of its victims.

The E-Nose may also potentially be used to detect other respiratory diseases such as asthma, tuberculosis, lung cancer, and pneumonia. Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are hopeful that this new technique will continue to be researched and expanded to include these other illnesses.

Again, mesothelioma and other lung cancers are caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers. If you suspect you developed an illness as the result of occupational exposure, you have important legal rights, and should consult an asbestos exposure attorney. Those suffering from mesothelioma have the right to compensation, and those with potential asbestos exposure are encouraged to look into the possibility of receiving electronic nose breath screening.