Device to ‘smell’ prostate cancer in the offing

A team of British researchers is on the verge of creating a urine diagnostic test using a special tool that can “smell” the cancer in men’s urine, ending the era of invasive diagnostic procedures that men currently undergo.

The results of the pilot study using the novel GC sensor system indicate that it is able to successfully identify different patterns of volatile compounds that allow classification of urine samples from patients with urological cancers.

“The use of a gas chromatography (GC)-sensor system combined with advanced statistical methods towards the diagnosis of urological malignancies,” said the researchers from the University of Liverpool.

Working in collaboration with the University of the West of England, the pilot study included 155 men at urology clinics.

Of this group, 58 were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 24 with bladder cancer and 73 with haematuria or poor stream without cancer.

Professor Chris Probert and the team used the sensor system called Odoreader. The test involves inserting urine samples into the Odoreader that are then measured using algorithms developed by the research team.

There is an urgent need to identify these cancers at an earlier stage when they are more treatable as the earlier a person is diagnosed the better.

“With help from industry partners. we will be able to further develop the Odoreader, which will enable it to be used where it is needed most; at a patient’s bedside, in a doctor’s surgery, in a clinic or Walk In Centre, providing fast, inexpensive, accurate results,” noted professor Probert.

The Odoreader has a 30-metre column that enables the compounds in the urine to travel through at different rates thus breaking the sample into a readable format.

This is then translated into an algorithm enabling detection of cancer by reading the patterns presented.

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.

“If this test succeeds at full medical trial it will revolutionise diagnostics. An accurate urine test would mean that many men who currently undergo prostate biopsy may not need to do so,” added Raj Prasad, consultant urologist at Southmead Hospital, North Bristol NHS Trust.