Golden Breathalyzer Could Diagnose Lung Cancer

Illustration for article titled Golden Breathalyzer Could Diagnose Lung Cancer

Lung cancer diagnosis can be an invasive process, involving CT scans and tissue biopsies. But a new nanotechnological process for cancer detection could make diagnosis lung cancer as simple as breathing into a tube.


Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa created a silicon-gold circuit by embedding gold nanoparticles in a silicon wafer. They then had 40 cancer patients and 56 people with healthy lungs fill mylar bags with healthy air, and had the air blown over the silicon-gold circuits.

Tumorous growths tear certain chemicals out of tissue, so that air in cancer-affected lungs contains molecules that healthy lungs do not. The research team chose to track four such chemicals: decane, trimethylbenzene, ethylbenzene, and heptanol. When the chemicals bind to the organic coat on the nanowires, they change the circuit's electrical resistance in a predictable way.

With some tweaking, the team hopes that the device will prove a reliable test for lung cancer, and, since the the circuits can be reused, it would be a relatively inexpensive, not to mention portable, method of detection. But aside from its convenience, breath testing could have another thing up on existing methods of lung cancer diagnosis: it could detect cancer too small to show up on an X-ray or CT scan, meaning it might detect lung cancer at a much earlier stage.

A Breathalyzer for Cancer [ScienceNOW]


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