Is it possible to detect lung cancer by smelling the air that someone exhales? Sharina Kort, lung specialist in training at MST, recently earned a PhD from the University of Twente based on her research into that topic.
Since 2015, Sharina Korthas been researching the potential for diagnosing lung cancer with breath analysis. In the research, an electronic nose is trained to distinguish between people with and without lung cancer.
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“Many people die of lung cancer. This is largely because it is discovered only at a late stage, when metastases are generally already present and there is little hope of recovery,” says Sharina. “That’s why our research is so important; another reason is that it focuses on non-invasive lung cancer diagnostics. In other words, a test that does not entail a risk of complications and that is not regarded as unpleasant by the patient.”
The nose has been trained at four hospitals, among 376 people, to detect lung cancer in exhaled air. “We subsequently confirmed this in a new group of 199 people,” Sharina adds. “If the nose indicates that no lung cancer is present, we can say with 94% certainty that the person doesn’t have lung cancer."
“Tests with an e-nose could be a quicker, cheaper and less unpleasant way of detecting lung cancer than the current test methods. At the moment, biopsies are taken from the lung, for example,” Sharina continues. “With e-nose tests you get the results more quickly, so the patient waits in uncertainty for a shorter time.”
“The next step is to determine what stage in the testing process is the best time to use the electronic nose so it provides the most benefits to the patient,” Sharina says. “That needs to be the subject of further research.”