Mesothelioma cancer disease concept as human lungs with growing malignant cancer cells as a medical illness conceptual symbol for asbestos exposure in a 3D illustration style.

Breath Test for Cancer May Help Doctors Diagnose Mesothelioma Earlier

A new breath test that can detect cancer may soon help doctors diagnose mesothelioma earlier. The test, which is going through clinical trials at the Cancer Research United Kingdom Cambridge Institute, may eventually be able to detect malignant mesothelioma.

The screening tool is not currently being used to test patients at risk for malignant mesothelioma, but it may soon be expanded to include the asbestos-related disease.

The test looks for the presence of signature molecules, known as volatile organic compounds, which are present in all cells. The volatile organic compounds become distinctive when in the presence of different types of cancers in different stages.

If the screening methodology could be expanded to include mesothelioma, doctors may be able to diagnose and determine the stage of the cancer quickly. This would allow for treatment to begin much earlier and potentially improve the survival rate.

Clinical testing for the screening tool is still ongoing. The next step is to collect and analyze breath samples from participants who are healthy and either diagnosed with cancer or at risk for cancer. Those participating in the trial will undergo traditional testing and a breath test to confirm the accuracy and effectiveness of the screening tool.

Late diagnosis is one of the primary reasons people with mesothelioma die within one year of the diagnosis. Advanced stage mesothelioma is less likely to respond to treatment.

Researchers are also looking at ways to use machine learning to diagnose mesothelioma earlier. Toronto researchers used data from the health records of 324 Turkish patients, all of which were exposed to asbestos and had symptoms of mesothelioma.

The researchers tested five different types of machine learning tools. One, called “random forest” was the most effective at identifying which patients would end up developing mesothelioma.

Machine learning may accurately predict diagnoses of patients with mesothelioma symptoms.