Cancer detection from a chewing gum may sound surprising, considering the complexity involving a series of blood tests, scans and urine analysis in the detection process.
An American company, Volatile Analysis, is mulling the launch of chewing gums that can determine cancer under the premise that a person with cancer will carry certain chemicals in the body, known by the name "volatiles." Such volatiles will be spotted when the candy is chewed.
The chewing gum will absorb the volatiles present in a person's saliva, allow determination of those chemicals, and facilitate diagnosis.
The cancer-detecting chewing gum is in testing stage and it is too early to predict its efficacy. The company is hoping that it can provide the gum to doctors and patients.
According to Katherine Bazemore, president of Volatile Analysis, organic compounds known as volatiles produced in the body are unique and relate to specific cancers.
Once the compounds are identified, it becomes easy to determine the type of cancer in the patient.
To the question why the gum format is preferred, Bazemore answered that it stays longer in the mouth and can withstand testing.
No More Blood Tests
If the gum proves efficient, then patients will not have to go through blood tests or urine analysis. According to the estimates made by the National Cancer Institute, 1.5 million cancer cases were freshly identified in 2016.
Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, a medical officer with the American Cancer Society, noted that many products and processes were tried in the past one and a half decades for cancer detection. But they were not very successful.
They included breath samples, urine samples, and trained dogs trying to smell cancer.
"None of these efforts are proven to detect cancer early," Lichtenfeld said.
Even though the cancer-detecting gum may not ooze bubbles, Bazemore is sure that the gum will come in many flavors and taste like candy.
Emerging Techniques That Avoid Invasive Methods
Detection of cancer through a simple blood test can be good news. It will be a far cry from the tedious and invasive methods and will deliver results in a rapid manner to the patients.
Andy Tao, professor of biochemistry at Purdue University Center for Cancer Research, has been working on that theme.
His research indicates that presence of proteins in blood plasma can indicate cancer. Tao's team was looking for phosphoproteins as biomarkers of cancer and found the presence of about 2,400 phosphoproteins in a blood sample with 144 dominating in cancer patients.
"There are so many types of cancer, even multiple forms for different types of cancer, that finding biomarkers has been discouraging. This is a breakthrough, showing the feasibility of using phosphoproteins in blood for detecting and monitoring diseases," said Tao.
Replacing current detection methods and substituting it with simple blood tests will scrap invasive biopsies and help in easy monitoring and better results.