Hossam Haick, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering, has created an electronic “nose” that can diagnose cancer in just two or three minutes by analyzing a patient’s breath.
When a cancerous tumor develops in the body, its cells produce various chemicals that appear in the urine and blood. These biomarkers cross from the blood into the lungs, where they are exhaled in minuscule amounts. Haick’s device detects cancer by “sniffing out” those telltale molecules; the current version can even distinguish between lung, breast, and colon cancer. He has begun testing the nose in collaboration with the oncology division of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The finished device should be portable and inexpensive, providing a faster, easier, and more sensitive way to screen for tumors. Such screening should help doctors detect cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Haick hopes the nose will eventually be as small as a cell phone and sophisticated enough to pinpoint a tumor’s location. –Kristina Grifantini