£10 breath test for pancreatic cancer could save thousands, as experts call it ‘biggest breakthrough’

£10 breath test for pancreatic cancer could save thousands as experts call it ‘biggest breakthrough in 50 years’

  • Cancer often came to light late: only 7% of diagnosed patients survived five years
  • Now thousands could be saved by testing molecules made by tumors



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A breath test to detect pancreatic cancer has been hailed as the ‘biggest breakthrough in 50 years’.

The cancer, which has claimed the lives of celebrities including Alan Rickman, Aretha Franklin and Patrick Swayze, is often caught late, with only seven percent of patients diagnosed surviving five years or more.

But experts say thousands of lives a year could be saved by a breath test that detects molecules made by tumors.

The test, performed on a breathalyser-type device in a GP practice, was developed by researchers at Imperial College London.

The study, the results of which were published in the British Journal of Surgery, tested 64 patients.

The test, performed on a breath analyzer device (pictured) in a GP practice, was developed by researchers at Imperial College London

The test, performed on a breath analyzer device (pictured) in a GP practice, was developed by researchers at Imperial College London

The test picked up 81 percent of those with pancreatic cancer.

The test only costs about £10 per patient and will soon be trialled on 700 people.

Urine check for early detection of bladder disorders

A urine test can predict whether you are likely to develop bladder cancer — up to 12 years before symptoms appear.

Researchers developed the check, which is cheaper and less invasive than the current one, after identifying mutations in ten genes that strongly indicate the presence of the disease.

In the UK, about 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. Researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon used urine from the Golestan Cohort Study, which followed 50,000 people for ten years.

The team tested samples from 29 participants who developed bladder cancer. The test predicted the cancer in 19 of them, even though samples had been taken up to 12 years before diagnosis.

According to a 10-year study up to 2010, 91 percent of people with pancreatic cancer had repeated GP visits with symptoms for at least two years before their diagnosis.

Dr. Chris Macdonald, head of research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, which has invested more than £650,000 in the test, said: ‘GPs can’t refer everyone with vague symptoms related to pancreatic cancer…because the vast majority of people with these symptoms will not have pancreatic cancer, and the health department would be overwhelmed.

“But this cheap, rapid breath test… could get people diagnosed much earlier, saving thousands of lives each year.

“It’s the most important potential development for pancreatic cancer in the last 50 years. We’re really on the cusp of a breakthrough.”

The test detects esophageal cancer and work is being done for colorectal cancer.

All of these cancers can be tested at the same time with the same breathalyzer.

The test could reduce the number of 80 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who receive a terminal diagnosis.

Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in almost 10,500 people a year in the UK. More than half die within three months.

Health Minister Helen Whately said: ‘The sooner we get cancer, the more likely we are to beat it.

“That’s why such breath tests could be such a major breakthrough — helping thousands get a potentially life-saving early diagnosis.”