Mistral: the device for the early detection of colorectal cancer

Non-invasive mass screening for oncological diseases – the dream of researchers and doctors has become reality, and is called Mistral.


Researchers from the Department of Biology and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Bari, ‘Aldo Moro’ – in collaboration with three other cluster companies, led by Predict Srl – have developed a prototype of a diagnostic device based on ‘breathomics’. This follows directly from the work of the public-private cluster ‘Inside the Breath’.

At this stage of the research, the result of previous long-term studies conducted by professors Donato Altomare and Gianluigi De Gennaro (and other staff of the University of Bari), has concentrated on colorectal carcinoma, which affects thousands of people each year in Italy due, above all, to the difficulty of diagnosing promptly this often-asymptomatic disease.

In Italy only 40% of the population at risk responds to the colorectal cancer screening campaigns. The remaining 60% are discouraged by unpleasant tests such as those for fecal occult blood (rather imprecise) and colonoscopy (very invasive , often painful and expensive for the health service).

Mistral, on the other hand, works in a simple, rapid and non-invasive way:

  • the patient is asked to blow into the device through a disposable mouthpiece (the whole operation takes about 4 minutes);
  • the Mistral device collects the exhaled breath in a cartridge;
  • at the same time the device collects a sample of the surrounding environment in a second cartridge;
  • the two cartridges are sent to a specialized laboratory, where the samples are analysed;
  • the type and quantity of some specific VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in the sample allows for a diagnosis of the presence of colorectal cancer;
  • the laboratory returns the report to the doctor who can then evaluate what further diagnostic procedures are called for.

The positive aspects of Mistral are evident: it is a smart, compact and portable device that can be used for mass screening campaigns and can be made readily available in places such as hospitals, pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries.

Non-invasiveness, speed of diagnosis and reduced costs are the elements that make Mistral suitable for effective prevention campaigns. All the collected data are stored in a cloud database, fully respecting patient privacy, allowing not only individual diagnoses but also large-scale epidemiological analyses.

The complex technology on which the device is based also allows for its application to other pathologies. The current study concerns not only colorectal cancer, but also a very different pathology, childhood asthma. Research is also being undertaken into its use in other areas of oncology, such as lung cancer.

With Mistral we can monitor our health through our breath, in just one puff.

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