Although it’s still being developed, scientists have made an “electronic nose” that can sniff for prostate cancer in urine specimens. What’s more, it reportedly has a success rate of almost 80 percent.
The device is called the ChemPro 100 eNose, and it works by screening for a protein that’s secreted by the prostate gland called prostate-specific antigen, or PSA. That substance is often elevated in men who have prostate cancer, and it’s hoped this new electronic gadget could greatly improve current diagnostic methods.
In a lab test, the electronic nose was tapped to evaluate the urine samples of 65 patients. 50 of them had prostate cancer that was confirmed with biopsy results, and 15 of them only had enlarged prostates. The device was able to detect the cancer with a 78 percent success rate, leading researchers to say this is the first time quick analyses of urine have been able to successfully pick out prostate cancer cases versus benign conditions.
Also, the tool is so sensitive, it was able to get those results without even having to come in contact with the bodily fluid. All that was necessary was to keep the tool lingering in the area directly above a specimen, often called the “headspace.”
Oddly enough, the thought process behind developing this highly sensitive cancer detector came from dogs. It is known canines are sometimes able to sense the presence of cancer in their owners. However, for obvious reasons, dogs can sometimes perform inconsistently, even when they are trained to know what to do. Devices like this prostate cancer tool are already widely and reliably used in industries like agriculture and the military.
Also, this is not the first time such technology has been used to identify cancer. A similar sniffer, called NaNose, had an 88 percent success rate finding lung cancer tumors by detecting compounds in a patient’s breath. Although it’s even more sensitive than the ChemPro 100 eNose, medical professionals have pointed out there are at least a couple of downsides to analyzing breath, as opposed to urine. Specifically, patients must be taught how to breathe in a way that will be detectable by the machine. Also, unlike the urine from the potential prostate cancer patients, breath can’t be stored for further study.
More research is needed, especially since this study only looked at people who had prostate cancer or other problems with their prostates, meaning it didn’t include the healthy population. However, since a non-invasive diagnostic method is already showing such worthwhile results in the early stages, that’s definitely a promising sign.