Researchers develop diagnostic tool that can 'smell' prostate cancer

Nearly 28,000 American men died of prostate cancer in 2015, and there remains no effective, non-invasive test for diagnosing the disease. But now, British researchers have developed a non-invasive diagnostic tool that can “smell” prostate cancer in men’s urine. The test may offer hope for men who are African-American or who have a family history of prostate cancer, two groups thought to be at a greater risk of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The Odoreader device is a gas chromatography (GC) sensor that works like an “electronic nose” by identifying different patterns of compounds tied to urological cancers in patients’ urine. Urine samples are inserted into the device, whereby an algorithm then runs and can detect the cancer.

“The positioning of the prostate gland, which is very close to the bladder, gives the urine profile a different algorithm if the man has cancer,” study author Norman Ratcliffe, a material and sensor sciences professor at the University of the West of England, said in a news release.

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In a study published Thursday in the Journal of Breath Research, Ratcliffe, along with researchers from the University of Liverpool, tested the device on 155 men presenting at urology clinics. According to the release, 58 of those men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 24 with bladder cancer, and 73 with haematuria or poor stream without cancer. Researchers found the test was successful at detecting the compound patterns associated with cancer.

“If this test succeeds at full medical trial, it will revolutionize diagnostics,” Raj Prasad, consultant urologist at Southmead Hospital, of the North Bristol NHS Trust, who was not involved in the study, said in the release.