Lung cancer can be sniffed out

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An important step in the early detection of lung cancer: Specially trained laboratory mice can sniff out lung cancer. Can early lung cancer be diagnosed soon with a urine test?

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers. Every year, around 1.3 million people die of bronchial cancer worldwide. The bad thing about lung cancer is that the disease is usually discovered too late and then treatment is hardly possible. There are no early signs of lung cancer. For this reason, scientists are concerned with the question of how medicine could detect bronchial carcinoma at an early stage using simple diagnostic tools.

Scientists at the Monell Science Center in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) have now carried out a series of experiments to find out that specially trained laboratory mice are able to detect lung cancer. "It is known that cancer in the body leads to changes that show up in the smell of body fluids," says Gary K. Beachamp, biologist at the Monell Center. There have been some reports that there are certain odor changes in cancer.

In the experiment, laboratory mice were trained to sniff the urine from other mice that had bronchial carcinoma. The result was that due to the different smell, the mice could distinguish the sick from the healthy mice. In the following experiments, the US scientists analyzed the urine of sick mice and compared it to that of healthy mice. It was noticed that certain "biomarkers" appeared in the urine of the sick mice in smaller amounts than in healthy urine. The scientists were able to identify 47 of the 50 mice with lung cancer using the biomarkers.

The purpose of the experiment was to develop a urine test for the early detection of lung cancer. Based on the study, the scientists came very close to this step. But it will take some time before the implementation. (sb, January 27, 2010)

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