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The breathalyser that could diagnose lung cancer early…

19th February: A breathalyser that can actually diagnose lung cancer will be used in two NHS hospitals this summer as part of a £1m clinical trial.

The device was originally invented by engineer Billy Boyle to detect explosives in airports and on the battlefield, but he refocused on medical applications following his wife’s colon cancer diagnosis in October 2012.

The LuCID (lung cancer indicator detection) project by Owlstone, the company founded by Mr Boyle, analyses the chemicals present in a person’s breath.

Diseases like lung cancer produce miniscule but unique chemical traces.

This can indicate illness long before symptoms become obvious – when survival rates are much higher.

“The survival rate for Stage 1 lung cancer is 75%; Stage 4 is just 5%” Troels Jordansen of LungHealth UK said.

The manufacturer is now working on small handheld devices that can be easily transferred in to GP practices.

The new device could save the NHS £245m, but more importantly save 10,000 lives.

Early detection could also reduce the numbers of patients sitting in waiting rooms, owing to successful earlier treatment.

Mr Boyle said “Sometimes an invention is for monetary gain, other times it’s to make a difference. We have a real opportunity to try and improve the lives of patients and reduce the devastation patients and their families face”.

Owlstone’s technology can also be applied to other diseases too, including bowel cancer.

“If this trial continues to show promise and is ultimately successful, the test could be delivered locally, for example at GP surgeries and pharmacies, and anything that can detect cancer early is worth investigating and trialing” Troels Jordansen of LungHealth UK said.

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