Diagnostic Tool Can Smell Bladder Cancer or Prostate Cancer in a Urine Sample

Diagnostic Tool Can Smell Bladder Cancer or Prostate Cancer in a Urine Sample
Diagnostic Tool Can Smell Bladder Cancer or Prostate Cancer in a Urine Sample

Recent developments in a gas chromatography tool might allow doctors to determine whether urologic cancers are present via a urine sample, according to a recent study. Such a tool could minimize the invasiveness of obtaining a biopsy to detect bladder and prostate cancers.1

Gas chromatography systems identify patterns of volatile compounds. This study aimed to differentiate urine samples from patients with bladder cancer or prostate cancer and urine samples from healthy controls. To do this, it examined volatile compounds from the samples through an algorithm for a gas chromatography sensor.

"There is an urgent need to identify these cancers at an earlier stage when they are more treatable as the earlier a person is diagnosed, the better,” said Chris Probert, MD, FRCP, FHEA, professor of gastroenterology, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, England, and co-author of the study.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers, but the use of serum prostate-specific antigen to select which patients should undergo biopsies remains controversial. This study examined urine samples from 155 male patients at urology clinics. Of these men, the diagnoses were hematuria and/or poor stream without cancer in 73 men, bladder cancer in 24 men, and prostate cancer in 58 men.

In this pilot study, the gas chromatography tool successfully differentiated urine samples between patients who did not have cancer and patients with prostate cancer or bladder cancer. The tool could also distinguish between prostate cancer and bladder cancer diagnoses. These distinctions were made with high sensitivity and specificity.

“After further sample testing, the next step is to take this technology and put it into a user-friendly format. With help from industry partners, we will be able to further develop the Odoreader, which will enable the tool to be used where it is needed most: at a patient's bedside, in a doctor's surgery, in a clinic or walk-in center, providing fast, inexpensive, accurate results," explained Probert.

The pilot trial was funded by the Rotary Club in Bristol, which held annual Run for the Future events in Bristol. The research team is now looking to fund a full clinical trial.


1. Aggio RB, de Lacy Costello B, White P, et al. The use of a gas chromatography-sensor system combined with advanced statistical methods, towards the diagnosis of urological malignancies. J Breath Res. 2016;10(1):017106.

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