To date, of the 5 human senses, smell has been the most underused in diagnostic medicine.
This is not because of its lack of potential.
Numerous canine studies over the last 2 decades have demonstrated that odors can distinguish multiple benign and malignant diseases.
Our innate inability to discriminate the subtle differences of volatile organic compounds, which differentiate the smell of these diseases has required us to develop technology to do so.
Dr Kenneth Wang and colleagues from Minnesota, USA investigated a more optimal Barrett’s esophagus screening test to detect and treat Barrett’s esophagus early, and in turn prevent esophageal adenocarcinoma and reduce its mortality.
|More than 95% of cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma do not have a preceding diagnosis of Barrett’s|
The team examined the use of electronic nose (e-nose) devices that use chemical to electrical interfaces to measure the subtle volatile organic compounds profiles of disease states.
The researchers noted that when paired with a machine learning platform, these devices can be trained like a canine to serve as a tool for noninvasive diagnostic testing.
Barrett’s esophagus a precursor to esophageal adenocarcinoma serves as a prototype disease for e-nose application.
The team report that this is because it has been estimated that more than 95% of cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma do not have a preceding diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus.
Esophageal adenocarcinoma survival remains dismal.
The research team highlight that earlier detection and treatment of Barrett’s esophagus has been shown to demonstrate low rates of progression to esophageal adenocarcinoma.
However, early detection of Barrett’s esophagus is problematic, because general population screening using endoscopy is not cost effective.
Dr Wang's team conclude, "We believe that an e-nose breath test may offer an accurate, affordable, acceptable, and more accessible diagnostic test for Barrett’s esophagus."