Scientists Develop Device That Can “Smell” Prostate Cancer

Odoreader analyzes urine compounds

Researchers in the United Kingdom are working on a urine test for prostate cancer that could make invasive diagnostic procedures a thing of the past. A pilot study included 155 men presenting to urology clinics. Of this group, 58 were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 24 with bladder cancer, and 73 with hematuria or poor stream without cancer. The results of the study demonstrated that the Odoreader, a gas chromatography sensor system, is able to classify urine samples from patients with urological cancers.

Urine samples are inserted into the Odoreader device and are measured using algorithms developed by research teams at the University of Liverpool and the University of the West of England.

Professor Chris Probert of the University of Liverpool began work on the project as a gastroenterologist with clinical and research interests in inflammatory bowel disease.

“There is an urgent need to identify [urological] cancers at an earlier stage when they are more treatable, as the earlier a person is diagnosed the better,” Robert said. “After further sample testing, the next step is to take this technology and put it into a user-friendly format. With help from industry partners, we will be able to further develop the Odoreader, which will enable it to be used where it is needed most: at a patient’s bedside, in a doctor’s surgery, or in a clinic or a walk-in center, providing fast, inexpensive, accurate results.”

Co-researcher Professor Norman Ratcliffe said: “There is currently no accurate test for prostate cancer. The vagaries of the PSA [prostate-specific antigen] test indicators can sometimes result in unnecessary biopsies, resulting in psychological toll, risk of infection from the procedure, and even sometimes missing cancer cases. Our aim is to create a test that avoids this procedure at initial diagnosis by detecting cancer in a noninvasive way by ‘smelling’ the disease in men’s urine. A few years ago we did similar work to detect bladder cancer following a discovery that dogs could sniff out cancer. We have been using the Odoreader, which is like an electronic nose to sense the cancer.”

The Odoreader device allows compounds in the urine to travel through a column at different rates, thus breaking the sample into a readable format. This is then translated into an algorithm that allows the detection of cancer by reading the patterns presented.

Urologist Raj Prasad commented: “If this test succeeds at full medical trial, it will revolutionize diagnostics. Even with detailed template biopsies, there is a risk that we may fail to detect prostate cancer in some cases. Currently, indicators such as diagnosed prostatomegaly and unusually high PSA levels can lead to recommendations for biopsy if there is a concern that cancer may be prevalent. An accurate urine test would mean that many men who currently undergo prostate biopsy may not need to do so.”

Source: University of Liverpool; February 11, 2016.