What’s in our breath? A team of researchers from the Department of Biology at the University of Bari and doctors of the Polyclinic have provided an unexpected response. Exhaled air contains, alongside other elements, molecules indicating analtered state of health. These are the findings of the revolutionary project, ‘Inside the Breath’, a project destined to mark the future of oncology, especially at the most important stage, prevention.
Over the past few months, the research phase has moved on to that of production, with the collaboration of three companies: Predict S.r.l., Wel.Co.Me.S.r.l.and RetiMeridiane. The goal is to create a spirometer-like instrument that captures the patient’s exhaled breath and translates it into a clinical report that indicates the possible presence of abnormalities: colon cancer, lung, breast, uterus or prostate cancers, but also other non-oncological pathologies such as childhood asthma. This means avoiding subjecting the patient to much more invasive examinations(which can be used at a later stage if necessary).
But there is a further advantage: as Prof Donato Francesco Altomare, one of the signatories to the research, explained, this tool will allow us to diagnose colon cancer when it is still in the early stages or even before a benign polyp starts to transform into a malignant neoplasm. In such cases, it is possible to intervene via endoscopy, removing non-invasive neo-formation and avoiding worse consequences, even providing a complete cure in 90% of cases.
Progress in this field is particularly relevantfor older people, one of the most vulnerable sections of the population as well as the group most at risk of cancer. As reported by the AIRC, the chance of developing cancer at sixty-five plus years old is four times higher than at 45 to 64 years, and even forty times as high as it is for the 20 to 44 age range.
But there is a further critical factor, recently reported: current screening programs for prevention do not involve older people, and tumors are therefore often diagnosed only at an advanced stage, producing a clinical picture often complicated by other pathologies and the use of drugs incompatible with oncology therapy.
Thanks to ‘Inside the Breath’, inexpensive and non-invasive diagnosis could lead to more extensive screening programs, thus transforming a potential death sentence into a small, easily treatableproblem.
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