The unfavorable odds can stack up as the presence of breast cancer goes undetected, but there are three near-future technologies that are primed to spot the malicious cells earlier than ever before and poised to dramatically improve the way doctors fight breast cancer. 

October brings out the pink in men and women of all ages, as the U.S. shines a spotlight on breast cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in women. While October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, the search for a cure marches on year-round.

Here's a closer look at three up-and-coming technologies: "smart" skin that can image lumps with nanoparticles; a chemical therapy called immunoliposomes; and a cancer breathalyzer that detects breast cancer as well as lung cancer.

It's said discovering lumps before they're 21 mm in length improves an individual's survival rate by 94 percent, but initial screens generally miss anomalies that are below that size.

A recent study conducted by Ravi F. Saraf and Chieu Van Nguyen and posted in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces shows how nanoparticles can be crafted into synthetic skin. The "smart" skin has been proven in lab tests to be able to image lumps as small as 5 mm, which were embedded as deep as 20 mm in silicon stand-ins.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are brute force approaches to curing cancer that ravage the body in an effort to destroy a specific group of cells.

As researchers continue to isolate the different types of cancers, finding the proteins that make each one unique, a very targeted approach to chemical therapy is being developed. The University of California San Francisco's Comprehensive Cancer Center is researching immunoliposomes, an approach to targeting that has been theorized since the late '80s and is only now becoming a reality.

"You can change the antibody and target different tumor types depending on what cancer protein is present, and you can also change the toxin," says study leader Joe Gray, Ph.D., professor of laboratory medicine. "Within five years, we're hoping to generate half a dozen different therapeutics that target different subtypes of breast tumors."

The cancer breathalyzer was designed to detect lung cancer, but it was also found to be effective in discovering breast cancer. It's also poised to serve as a cost-effective means for early diagnosis of breast cancer in small clinics that don't have the budget to offer mammograms.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute found that the cancer breathalyzer's accuracy was approximately 78 percent. The equipment captures a container of an individual's breath and uses chromatography to deconstruct the compounds in the samples.

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