‘Scent device’ may help detect bladder cancer

July 15, 2013

British researchers have developed a device that they say is able to read odors in urine to help diagnose patients with early signs of bladder cancer.

British researchers have developed a device that they say is able to read odors in urine to help diagnose patients with early signs of bladder cancer.

Previous research has suggested that a particular odor in the urine can be detected by dogs trained to recognize the scent, indicating that methods of diagnoses could be based on the smell of certain gases, say researchers from the University of Liverpool and University of the West of England, Bristol.

The device, called Odoreader, contains a sensor that responds to chemicals in gas emitted from urine. The device analyzes this gas and produces a profile of the chemicals in urine that can be read by scientists to diagnose the presence of cancer cells in the bladder.

“Bladder cancer is said to be the most expensive cancer to treat, due to repeated scopes to inspect the development of the cancer cells in the bladder. Odoreader has the potential to dramatically cut these costs by preventing scopes,” said co-author Chris Probert, MD, of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Translational Medicine.

Dr. Probert and colleagues examined 98 samples of urine to develop the device, and tested it on 24 patient samples known to have cancer and 74 samples from patients with urologic symptoms but no cancer. The device correctly assigned 100% of cancer patients, the researchers reported.

The device works by inserting a bottle containing the urine sample into the device. About 30 minutes later, the device is capable of showing the diagnosis on a computer screen if the sample derives from a patient with bladder cancer.

“These results are very encouraging for the development of new diagnostic tools for bladder cancer, but we now need to look at larger samples of patients to test the device further before it can be used in hospitals,” Dr. Probert said.

The research, also conducted in collaboration with Bristol Urological Institute, is published online in PLoS ONE (July 8, 2013).

Dr. Probert and other study co-authors have a patent application that protects the detection system design.

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