JAN 18, 2021 2:04 PM PST

An "E-Nose" Could Help Doctors Diagnose Breast Cancer and Its Subtypes

WRITTEN BY: Jasper Cantrell

Breast cancer is one of the most well-studied cancers in modern medicine. Diagnostics can already differentiate between several sub-types of breast cancer, but new technology might make the tests even easier.

Breast cancer can be divided into four broad sub-groups. They are estrogen-positive (ER+), progesterone positive (PR+), human epidermal growth factor positive (HER2+), or triple-negative (PR-ER-HER2-) breast cancers. Usually, a staining technique is used to measure the indicator proteins' levels and determine the sub-typing, but that may soon change.

In a new study, a team from the National Taiwan University of Public Health examined if an "e-nose" could determine the sub-type of breast cancer in patients. The e-nose is a device that analyzes metabolites (small molecules produced during cellular metabolism) in the breath. These metabolites would be unique for breast cancer patients and could diagnose the subtype of cancer.

The problem was in translating the results from the e-nose into something we can understand. To do this, the team utilized machine learning. A program would gradually learn how to read the data, pick out the subtle differences in data that separate each cancer sub-type, and translate it into a profile that would fit either PR+, ER+, Her2+ triple-negative metabolite profiles.

The team gathered 833 patients over two years and found that their protocol could indeed diagnose a patient's breast cancer subtype. They gathered air from the lower respiratory tract by using a tube to get the best air for the test. Air that you breathe out gets "contaminated" as it runs through your throat. They did this before surgery began on most patients and could have results ready as fast as 30 minutes later. While identifying breast cancer sub-types isn't a new discovery, the speed at which this method could diagnose the sub-type is far quicker than previous methods.

The field of diagnostics is often overlooked in favor of cool and exciting drug technologies. Cancer is a diverse disease, with many types of cancer's having sub-types that each have their treatment regimen. Using something as simple as a patient's breath to diagnose a cancer's sub-type could save patients time, money, and an invasive procedure. It also brings to mind a future where a simple breath test can tell you everything you need about your body.

The study concludes, "This study used sensor array and machine learning algorithms to analyze breath samples from breast cancer patients. The results showed high accuracy and reliability in the discrimination of breast cancer and the molecular subtype. The novel breath test has great potential to develop a rapid breast cancer diagnostic tool during surgery."

Sources: Nature Scientific Reports, Tedx Talks

About the Author
  • Hey everyone! My name is Jasper and, considering I am pretty new here to Labroots, I figured I would introduce myself. I received my bachelor’s from the University of California at Riverside back in 2016. I started off my career a few years ago with a job at a University over in New York, before moving over into the industry. I'm happy to be writing content for Labroots, and I hope you enjoy it!
You May Also Like
NOV 27, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
UVC Rays May be a Bigger Cancer Risk Than Known
NOV 27, 2020
UVC Rays May be a Bigger Cancer Risk Than Known
The sun emits different kinds of light and rays including visible and ultraviolet (UV) and infrared. Some of those forms ...
DEC 14, 2020
Cancer
Children with cancer face no higher risk of infection from COVID-19
DEC 14, 2020
Children with cancer face no higher risk of infection from COVID-19
Relieving news from a University of Birmingham study reports that children with cancer who test positive for COVID-19 do ...
DEC 22, 2020
Cancer
No increased risk of contracting COVID-19 for head and neck cancer patients
DEC 22, 2020
No increased risk of contracting COVID-19 for head and neck cancer patients
New research published online in CANCER brings a sigh of relief for patients with head and neck cancer. The findings, pu ...
DEC 25, 2020
Immunology
A High-Fat Diet Starves Immune Cells, Tumor Growth Goes Unchecked
DEC 25, 2020
A High-Fat Diet Starves Immune Cells, Tumor Growth Goes Unchecked
  Sitting down to enjoy an indulgent Christmas feast? A recent study in mice by Harvard Medicine scientists found t ...
DEC 28, 2020
Cancer
Revealing a Critical Protein Involved in the Pentose Phosphate Pathway in Cancer
DEC 28, 2020
Revealing a Critical Protein Involved in the Pentose Phosphate Pathway in Cancer
The metabolism of cancer has interested scientists in recent decades. Many cancers conduct "normal" metabolism ...
FEB 16, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
What Dead Cells Can Tell Us About Our Health
FEB 16, 2021
What Dead Cells Can Tell Us About Our Health
Taking a sample of tissue called a biopsy from an organ suspected of harboring a pathology is a common diagnostic practi ...
Loading Comments...