The ‘Electronic Nose’ is a groundbreaking medical device capable of differentiating between benign and malignant mesothelioma in its early stages. This is radical news for those exposed to asbestos since mesothelioma has historically been trademarked by its stubbornness for detection. Developed by researchers at the University of South Wales, Australia, the ‘nose’ is a non-invasive mechanism similar to a breath test.
European Respiratory Journal has published a clinical study based on breath samples analyzed from 18 patients with other asbestos-related disease, 20 patients with malignant mesothelioma and 42 control subjects. The ‘nose’ detected mesothelioma with an astounding 88 percent accuracy rate. A similar device, ‘Cyranose 320,’ was marketed in 2000 by researchers from University of Bari (Italy) and the University of Amsterdam— with an 80 percent accuracy rate for early mesothelioma detection.
Early detection is key to successful treatment. The ‘Electronic Nose’ could assist physicians in more aggressively attacking the disease before it becomes untreatable.
Mesothelioma is an oddly sneaky, aggressive cancer caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers. Before now researchers have been stumped developing successful diagnostic methods— rendering mesothelioma one of the most difficult cancers to manage. During the last 15 years, however, significant breakthroughs from the medical community have offered improvements in surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Dr. David Sugarbaker (Boston) has created extrapleural pneumonectomy, a procedure combining initial tumor removal with a preventive chemotherapy ‘wash’ simultaneously. New chemotherapy drugs, Alimta and Cisplatin, have accelerated positive results when combined with high-dose radiation. But without early detection these improvements would be greatly diminished.
Top researchers attended the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) 2012 Symposium to discuss the future of mesothelioma treatment. Their consensus: the best hope is immunotherapy, a fairly recent area of study that utilizes parts of the immune system to treat the disease. Immunotherapy also incorporates cancer vaccines to resist development and obliterate any existing malignancy. Passive immunotherapy (i.e., antibodies, etc., mixed outside the body, in the laboratory) is currently being studied in clinical trials. Scientists are optimistic.
Meanwhile, despite further testing hurdles to surmount, the ‘Electronic Nose’ is conceivably a precursor to all of the above treatments— a promising game changer.