At the Chongqing University in China, researchers have been working on a sensor able to detect volatile organic compounds in a person’s breath that point to the existence of lung cancer. So far the device has shown promise in laboratory tests, detecting related compounds with a nearly 100% accuracy, according to the team.
It works thanks to a fluorescent cross-responsive sensor array over which a special rotary gas chamber spreads the gas evenly. Dots on the outside of the sensor ring change color depending on the substance they come in contact with. By detecting how the fluorescence of the array varies due to the introduction of a gas, the device is able to spot the existence of specific biomarkers. In their study, the researchers were able to spot cancer-related volatile organic compounds p-xylene, styrene, isoprene, and hexanal at concentrations of up to 50 parts per billion.
The next step is to put the sensor through clinical trials to verify that it works with an actual patient’s breath.
From the study abstract in AIP Review of Scientific Instruments:
The data collection and processing system was used to detect fluorescent changes of the sensor arrays before and after reaction, and to extract unique patterns of the tested VOCs. Four selected VOCs, p-xylene, styrene, isoprene, and hexanal, were detected by the proposed device. Unsupervised pattern recognition methods, hierarchical cluster analysis and principal component analysis, were used to analyze data. The results showed that the methods could 100% discriminate the four VOCs. What is more, combined with artificial neural network, the correct rate of quantitative detection was up to 100%, and the device obtained responses at concentrations below 50 ppb. In conclusion, the proposed detection device showed excellent selectivity and discrimination ability for the VOCs related tolung cancer. Furthermore, our preliminary study demonstrated that the proposed detection device has brilliant potential application for early clinical diagnosis of lung cancer.
Study in AIP Review of Scientific Instruments: A novel device based on a fluorescent cross-responsive sensor array for detecting lung cancer related volatile organic compounds
American Institute of Physics: Potential New Breathalyzer for Lung Cancer Screening