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Cancer: the Scent

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If people with untreated diabetes can have fruity-smelling breath, then what might the breath of a cancer patient smell like? Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic are developing a way to detect the various biomarkers of cancer in human breath using changing colors on a reactive chemical indicator array, reports The Globe and Mail's Rick Pilger. In the clinic's latest study, the color array was 80 percent to 85 percent accurate in determining whether a subject had lung cancer.

In Canada, a company called Picomole Instruments is developing technology capable of analyzing human breath to detect disease, Pilger adds. Picomole is partnering with the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute to test its technology in clinical trials of lung cancer patients. "The breath analysis technology developed by [the Picomole] team is based on infrared spectroscopy, an analytical technique that takes advantage of the fact that molecules absorb infrared light at specific wavelengths characteristic of their structure," Pilger says. "Picomole's technology, called LISA (Laser Infrared Sample Analysis), is capable of providing an extremely comprehensive analysis of a breath sample."

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