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Breathalyzer That Detects Lung Cancer Early From a Single Breath Wins $100K Entrepreneurship Competition ( 85

Lung cancer "breathalyzer," developed by a team of MIT and Harvard University students, has won $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. The breathalyzer connects to a smartphone and is able to detect lung cancer early from a single breath, reports MIT News. From the report: Astraeus Technologies has developed a postage-stamp-sized device, called the L CARD, that detects certain gases indicative of lung cancer. When someone blows onto the device, a connected mobile app turns a smartphone screen red if those gases are present and green if they aren't. "The L CARD reacts and sends instantaneous information to the physician that further attention is required," Joseph Azzarelli, an MIT PhD student in chemistry said while a ripple of excitement spread through the crowd. Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer in the United States, causing more deaths than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, according to the World Health Organization.
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Breathalyzer That Detects Lung Cancer Early From a Single Breath Wins $100K Entrepreneurship Competition

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  • "The breathalyzer connects to a smartphone and is able to lung cancer early from a single breath"
    • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @05:14PM (#52101125)

      The key word here is "early". Apparently the device can detect lung cancer early on. The earlier you know sb has cancer, the better you can treat them.

      • There was a typo in the original post, the word "detect" was missing. It's been fixed since.
      • by Xenna ( 37238 )

        The key question is: how early? Is it 'early enough'?

        If it's early enough often enough they deserve a lot more than a measly 100K.

        Lung cancer is almost always deadly.

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )

        Though "medical media" people repeat this, it's not true as a general rule. On thing that came out of the Obamacare debates, when people spent a lot of time comparing the US health care system (which is very test heavy) to others throughout the world (particularly in Europe), is that for many cancers the fact that you survive longer after a cancer is detected is purely a statistical artifact of the early detection. For example, let's say you have a cancer that will kill you in five years. Dr A has a test

      • or the earlier that you can get blacked listed or moved into a high risk pool under GOP care.

  • by jjeffries ( 17675 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @05:13PM (#52101121)

    I wonder if it can detect cancer with other, err, bodily gas flows...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    it will cost $10,000.00 to breathe into it. They do that, you know. And insurance will not cover it. They do that, you know.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @05:31PM (#52101211)
    and any other doc-in-a-box.
  • Officer: You just blew twice the legal limit, your life is probably ruined now. oh, and btw.. you also have lung cancer.
    • by tsotha ( 720379 )
      Heh. He'd probably let you go - the state doesn't want to pay to treat your cancer, which it's on the hook for if you're in jail.
  • by doug141 ( 863552 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @05:52PM (#52101307)

    ...discussed at length here: []

  • by tolleyl ( 580010 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @05:53PM (#52101311)
    One of the problems with such devices is that they don't report the percentage of false positives. This is a much bigger problem than false negatives, since there are more people who are negative (don't have lung cancer) than positive (have lung cancer). It's generally considered very bad to tell someone that they have cancer and then later say "Sorry, but we made a mistake." Though that's good news for them, they get upset that you told them the false bad news first. However, early diagnosis of lung cancer is an important area and if they made progress toward that then I applaud them.
    • by Calibax ( 151875 ) * on Thursday May 12, 2016 @07:19PM (#52101723)

      A false positive is much less of a problem than a false negative. One can cause some loss of sleep, the other can result in a failure to get early treatment and subsequent death.

      If a positive result if presented to the patient as an indication that they should have further tests then the level of anxiety generated by the result can be managed.

      • by uncqual ( 836337 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @07:37PM (#52101779)

        A false positive can result in additional testing such as CT scans, PET scans, and/or biopsies which were unneeded and expose the patient to risks such as increased risk of actually getting cancer due to increased exposure to radiation or infection or other complications from surgery/anesthesia.

        • by Calibax ( 151875 ) *

          I would still prefer the false positive - yes there's a chance that subsequent testing may cause a cancer (possible but very unlikely) and the false negative causes treatment to be delayed.

          My first wife died of lung cancer. Her doctor diagnosed her initial symptoms as bronchitis and it was four months before the quack decided to send her to the hospital with pneumonia. Then the cancer was discovered and she died 16 months later. The type of lung cancer she had was unusual (non-small cell carcinoma) and i

          • There are women who have had breasts cut off completely because of a false positive. I don't think it is such a small mistake as you make it out to be. And just the stress alone could cause a lot of harm to a person.
      • If a positive result [is] presented to the patient as an indication that they should have further tests then, the level of profit generated by the result can be maximized.

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @05:53PM (#52101317) Homepage

    The L CARD (which stands for Chemically Actuated Resonate Device) is essentially a modified near-field communication tag. Certain volatile organic compounds unique to the breath of lung cancer patients modify the tagâ(TM)s radio frequency identification signal. A smartphone then pings the device and determines, from the modified signal, if those volatile compounds are present.

    Sounds like the thing just gives a binary yes/no reading. So why bother with the NFC and phone? Why not just have a red/green LED on the device itself?

    • If I understand correctly what I'm reading about the biomarker gasses, it's not just the absence or presence of a gas or gasses, but the quantities, and the profile of those quantities in normal vs. diseased lungs. So, they're hooking it up to a pattern classifier. In the prototype stage you need a computer with a fair amount of power --- fortunately these days a smart phone will do. Down the road I imagine they could hook it up to a FPGA or six and eventually engineer it down to one chip, but that's a lot more engineering and likely years down the road.
  • by Smiddi ( 1241326 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @07:10PM (#52101683)
    Now if the police really want to save lives (and not just revenue raise) they will incorporate this into random breath tests (RBT's)
  • My doc is starting to bug me about getting a colonoscopy. My wife did that a few years ago. The enemas/spending the night on the toilet is bad enough, but the thought of some dude (and a nurse, and some random tech, the secretary who needs a signature, the electrician adding an outlet, the Culligan guy replacing the water tank, and the gay guy with his phone out that just happens to be there cuz reasons) getting me doggy style while they run a camera from asshole to nostrils is just something I don't wann
    • by Calibax ( 151875 ) * on Thursday May 12, 2016 @07:30PM (#52101757)

      I had a colonoscopy when I turned 50. It discovered a stage 3 adenocarcinoma in the ascending colon. Without a colonoscopy these are generally not found until the colon is blocked or it ruptures - either way the cancer has usually metastasized by this point and the live expectancy is of the order of 18 months to two years.

      The day after the colonoscopy a cat scan confirmed the result (not that there was a doubt) and a week later the tumor was removed. The surgery was followed by 6 months of chemotherapy. That was 12 years ago.

      A colonoscopy saved my life. It might save yours also. Man up and get it taken care of.

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )

        This. A colonoscopy has a bigger statistical impact on your longevity than any other screening test.

    • How about a dog?

  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @09:42PM (#52102187)

    I'm a scientist and have worked in the sensor field for a long time. I have had students I've trained attempt this (commercial breath detection of cancer) with promising initial results. It's pretty easy to do the demo these guys are doing. It's very hard to do this with real people. The gap between cool academic demo and manufactured product is huge. The gap between product and FDA cleared diagnostic is even larger.

  • And now we just need a toilet that can detect colon, stomach and prostate cancer and we're good to go.

  • Theranos needs to start over by hiring these students.

  • Wouldn't it be earilier if they just detected the smoke instead?

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