Invention could diagnose cancer from breath test

Boris Gorbunov Robert Muir Wesley Baker
Boris Gorbunov, Robert Muir, Wesley Baker

SCIENTISTS from Canterbury have launched a fundraising appeal to help them produce a device that can detect cancer in breath. The team, led by Dr Boris Gorbunov, director of Ancon Technologies at the Canterbury Innovation Centre, say they need £430,000 to take their nanoparticle biomarker disease detection device to the testing stage.

It can identify cancer and other diseases such as tuberculosis at a very early stage, even before symptoms develop.

Ancon Technology commercial and marketing director Wesley Baker said: “We believe that breath analysis is the holy grail of medical diagnosis, because it is inexpensive, simple to use and allows early-stage identification which greatly increases quality of life and a patient’s chances of survival.

“If we could get individuals to donate just £10 we would be well on our way towards saving lives with a device that can detect cancer early.

“Cancer affects one in three people. It could be your family, friends, and even associates – this is our driving force, we must get this device to the world as soon as possible.”

The firm has a prototype, produced after research funded by the Technology Strategy Board, but there is no funding available for the pre-production and production stages.

Initial tests of their patented technology show it to be more sensitive than previous attempts, and now scientists need to stage larger scale trials.

It can also be used to detect explosives and drugs in the air, meaning it has potential for airport and other security.

Mr Baker said: “The impact of this technology could be massive. By identifying diseases before they start, thousands of lives could be saved every year and at a fraction of the cost of current methods.

“The idea to use the breath for lung cancer diagnostics has been known before, but current technologies are not sensitive enough to pick up the earlier stage of the cancer. They are not selective enough and produce false negative and false positive signals.

“Ancon is a revolutionary technology that enables all promises of the breath cancer detection to be realised.”

The technology has been developed by Dr Gorbunov for the last 10 years and reads biomarkers – a complex mixture of molecules – within people’s breath.

The device can amplify these markers more than a billion times in mass, allowing a single molecule to be detected and identified.

Among the diseases it could detect are lung cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, and cancer of the bowel, stomach, liver and kidney.

Ancon bosses hope it will eventually be available in GP surgeries as well as hospitals.

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