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New Test Might 'Smell' Early Stage Lung Cancer
Date:1/27/2010

Mouse study suggests changes in scent of urine could catch disease quickly

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they have fashioned a new test that can detect lung cancer simply on the basis of a tumor-causing change in the odor of bodily fluids.

The finding is so far based solely on work with mice, but follow-up studies are underway to see if this novel approach could aid in the early diagnosis of lung cancer in humans.

"But this work already proves, at least in principle, that tumors -- in this case lung cancer tumors in mice -- result in a change in odors that ought to be useful for diagnostic purposes," observed senior study author Gary K. Beauchamp, a biologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Beauchamp and his colleagues published their findings online in the January issue of PLoS One.

The authors noted that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 220,000 men and women were diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States in 2009. Nearly 160,000 Americans died from the disease that same year.

Researchers have long sought to expand the ways they could screen for lung cancer at as early a stage as possible, given that the disease often develops in the absence of easily identifiable symptoms.

Although previous anecdotal reports have indicated that tumor-provoked odor changes might signal the presence of cancer, the research team noted that this prospect has never conclusively been proven.

Setting out to do just that, Beauchamp and his associates devised what they described as a "rigorously controlled animal model" to isolate smell biomarkers in the urine of mice that develop as the result of lung cancer-induced organic compound changes occurring at the molecular level.

On one front, the researchers trained so-called "sensor mice" to recognize the
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