Sniffing Out Bladder Cancer
July 10, 2013

New Device Can Detect Bladder Cancer By Smell Of Urine

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Researchers from the University of Liverpool and University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) report that they have developed a new test capable of detecting bladder cancer based on the smell of urine samples.

The test was inspired by stories suggesting that dogs are capable of "sniffing out" certain types of cancer, and according to AFP reports, the method could provide a new way to test early for a disease which can be expensive to detect and treat.

"It is thought that dogs can smell cancer, but this is obviously not a practical way for hospitals to diagnose the disease," Norman Ratcliffe of the UWE Bristol Institute of Biosensor Technology explained in a statement. "Taking this principle, however, we have developed a device that can give us a profile of the odor in urine. It reads the gases that chemicals in the urine can give off when the sample is heated."

That device, which was developed in the UWE Bristol Institute of Biosensor Technology, has been dubbed Odoreader. According to the researchers it contains a sensor that responds to chemicals in gases emitted from urine. Odoreader analyses those gases, and then creates a profile of the chemicals in a person's urine that scientists can use to diagnose presence of cancer cells in the bladder.

In order to make it work, a bottle containing a patient's urine sample is inserted into the device. The Odoreader spends about 30 minutes analyzing the content of the urine, and then shows the diagnoses on a computer screen in instances where the sample originates from an individual that has bladder cancer.

Thus far, the device has returned accurate results more than 90 percent of the time, according to BBC News Online Health Editor Michelle Roberts. However, experts warn that additional studies are needed to perfect the testing method before it can become available to the general public, she added.

"Each year approximately 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with bladder cancer," said Professor Chris Probert of the University of Liverpool's Institute of Translational Medicine. "It is a disease that, if caught early, can be treated effectively, but unfortunately we do not have any early screening methods other than diagnosis through urine tests at the stage when it starts to become a problem.".

Probert reported that the team looked at 98 urine samples, testing it on 24 patients known to have cancer and 74 that had other, non-cancerous urological symptoms. He claimed that the device correctly assigned 100 percent of the cancer patients, calling the results "very encouraging for the development of new diagnostic tools for bladder cancer" but reiterating the need to test out the unit on larger samples of patients before allowing its use in hospitals.

The results of the study appear in the latest edition of the journal PLOS ONE.