A new device has successfully detected prostate cancer through "smelling" the illness using a gas chromatography sensor, a new study has shown.
Researchers from the United Kingdom hope that their findings could pave the way for a urine diagnostic test that could make invasive diagnostic procedures a thing of the past.
The study involved 155 men, 58 of which were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 24 with bladder cancer, and 73 with hematuria, which is characterized by blood leaking into urine. Results from the GC sensor system indicated that through detectable patterns of volatile compounds, urine samples can show the presence of urological cancers.
The GC sensor system, known as Odoreader, was developed by professors Chris Probert of University of Liverpool and Norman Ratcliffe of University of the West of England Bristol, and employed especially developed algorithms in measuring urine samples.
"There is an urgent need to identify these cancers at an earlier stage when they are more treatable as the earlier a person is diagnosed the better," said Probert in a statement.
After sample testing, the researchers seek to fund a full clinical trial and commercially develop the device, allowing the technology to be used at hospitals and doctors' clinics for fast, inexpensive and accurate diagnosis, added Probert.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test — the current primary screening for the disease — can sometimes lead to unnecessary biopsies and risks of infection and even missing cancer cases, warned Ratcliffe.
Odoreader, he said, is an "electronic nose" that can smell prostate cancer in the urine in a non-invasive way.
The Odoreader was developed a few years ago to detect bladder cancer, as inspired by studies showing that dogs could sniff out the Big C.
The device features a 30-meter (98-feet) column that allows compounds in the urine to move at various rates, thus producing a sample in a readable format. It then reads the patterns that surface — the prostate gland's proximity to the bladder, for instance, results in a different algorithm if there is cancer present.
Urologist Raj Prasad of Southmead Hospital said that an accurate urine test could spare men from undergoing prostate biopsy, which is usually recommended if a man has an enlarged prostate or abnormally high PSA levels.
"Even with detailed template biopsies there is a risk that we may fail to detect prostate cancer in some cases," Prasad added.
The findings were published in the Journal of Breath Research.
Studies continue to underscore the importance of early cancer detection.
A recent study from Vanderbilt University discovered that heart disease is the most common non-cancer cause of death among survivors of prostate cancer.
In 2010, the American Heart Association also found a possible link between a prostate cancer treatment known as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and cardiovascular conditions.