A new, non-invasive type of test could spell the beginning of a new age in bladder cancer diagnosis. Researchers at the University of Liverpool and University of the West of England in Bristol have created a device that can analyze the odors in urine to catch early signs of this type of cancer. The researchers claim the device has generated an accuracy rate of 100 percent in tests with 98 urine samples.

The device, called the Odoreader, features a sensor system that responds to chemicals in gas emitted from urine. The system comprises a standard gas chromatography oven fitted with a commercially available capillary column, a staple component of this technique. The column is interfaced to a heated metal oxide sensor (a mix of tin and zinc oxide) that is used as the detector.

A bottle with the urine sample is inserted into the device, which then analyzes the gas in the fluid to deliver a profile of the chemicals found. It takes about 30 minutes for the profile to appear on a computer screen, with data that indicates the presence or absence of cancer cells in the bladder.

An envisioned commercial version of the Odoreader

The researchers say that an early diagnosis of bladder cancer increases the chance of a successful treatment, besides reducing related costs. Traditionally, one of the methods used to pick up early signs of bladder cancer involves training dogs to sniff out the telltale scent – although using dogs for diagnoses in a hospital is far from ideal. However, the fact that dogs could detect cancer through smells gave rise to the idea that the key could be in the odor of certain gases.

“These results are very encouraging for the development of new diagnostic tools for bladder cancer, but we now need to look at larger samples of patients to test the device further before it can be used in hospitals,” says Professor Chris Probert of the University of Liverpool.

The Bristol Urological Institute also collaborated on the research, which was detailed in the journal Plos One.

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