A simple breath test using a technology called nanoarray analysis can detect stomach cancer.

An international group of scientists from Latvia and Israel suggests that the nanoarray analysis not only can detect stomach cancer, but also accurately identify individuals who are at a high risk of developing the disease.

Researchers suggest that gastric cancer normally develops in well-defined ways; however, there are currently no effective or reliable steps to find the progression of the disease. Moreover, no non-invasive screening techniques for the detection of stomach cancer exist.

"The attraction of this test lies in its non-invasiveness, ease of use, rapid predictiveness, and potentially low cost," says author Professor Hossam Haick, Department of Chemical Engineering and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, Haifa, Israel.

The latest study involved 484 individuals who gave breath tests after 12 hours of abstention from smoking for a minimum of three hours. About 100 participants were already diagnosed with gastric cancer; however, they were not treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

All the participants revealed their drinking and smoking habits. The participants were also tested for Helicobacter pylori infection, which is a known risk issue related to stomach cancer.

The researchers first analyzed breath samples of the participants with the help of a technique called GCMS, which measures several instable organic compounds in an individual's exhaled breath. Then the researchers conducted another breath test with nanoarray analysis that was combined with pattern recognition.

The results of GCMS reflected that patients without the disease and the ones with stomach cancer had unique "breath prints."

GCMS identified 130 instable organic compounds in the exhaled breath of individuals; however, the intensity of 8 organic compounds differed significantly in participants who had suffered stomach cancer compared to those who were at risk of the cancer.

The nanoarray analysis accurately distinguished between different pre-cancerous phases, marking out patients who were at a high or low risk of getting gastric cancer.

Professor Haick suggests that the capability of nanoarray analysis to accurately identify individuals at high or low risk will avoid unnecessary endoscopies. Doctors will also be able to monitor progression of the disease with the help of the breath analysis.

Stomach cancer is not very common but normally it is confused with other gastric problems. The disease is left till late stages where survival factor of the patient is reduced. A simple breath analysis will help thousands of people get screened for stomach cancer at early stages.

The study has been published in the journal Gut.

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