A new device might be able to detect bladder cancer in much the same way as dogs can detect cancer and other illnesses, according to new research
The new so-called “scent device” is called an ODOREADER and may help with early detection of bladder cancer and decreasing diagnostic costs associated with the illness, according to CBS News. The device smells cancer in patients’ urine.
Bladder cancer kills more than 15,000 Americans annually and 73,000 new cases are expected this year, alone, according to CBS News. American Cancer Society data indicates that more than 500,000 bladder cancer survivors live in the United States, with most—nine out of 10—age 55 and older.
“It is a disease that, if caught early, can be treated effectively, but unfortunately we do not have any early screening methods other than diagnosis through urine tests at the stage when it starts to become a problem,” study researcher Dr. Chris Probert, a professor at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Translational Medicine in the United Kingdom said in a news release, according to CBS News.
Meanwhile, thousands of lawsuits have been filed, and lawsuits continue to be filed, against Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the Type 2 diabetes drug, Actos (pioglitazone). In 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Actos for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Litigation typically alleges that the drug maker was aware that taking Actos could lead to an increased risk of bladder cancer, but failed to disclose this information to the public.
The majority of bladder cancer cases originate in the cells that line the bladder’s interior, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, frequent urination, or pain when urinating. To confirm cancer of the bladder, testing the urine for blood or abnormal cells and undergoing a bladder cytoscopy to view the bladder and obtain cells are generally conducted, WebMD says. If bladder cancer is confirmed, the stage of that cancer determines treatment, which may include surgery to remove the cancer, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to destroy cancer sells, immunotherapy to attack bladder cancer cells, and/or bladder removal. Because bladder cancer is known to recur, ongoing testing and early diagnosis is critical.
The BRCA biomarker is used to screen for risks of breast and ovarian cancers; however, there are no reliable biomarkers available for bladder cancer screening, the study authors note, CBS News reports. Biomarkers are the measurable molecular signs of a disease. The science behind the new device originated with prior research that found that dogs are able to smell bladder cancer, according to 60 Minutes. In fact, dogs are working at some health care facilities to detect other cancers, such as ovarian cancers.
Researchers, who believe the dogs may be detecting the scents in urine from gasses associated with bladder cancer, created a sensor device that can analyze urine gases and create a read-out of the urine’s chemicals in about 30 minutes, CBS News explained. The study appears in the July 8 issue of PLos One. The team tested the ODOREADER on 24 samples derived from patients diagnosed with bladder cancer and 74 samples from patients with urological symptoms, but not bladder cancer. The ODOREADER correctly picked 100 percent of the cancer patients, according to CBS News.
The ODOREADER is expected to reduce the costs of diagnosing and treating bladder cancer, Probert says, noting that the costs can add up. “The researchers say that the test would be around 96 percent accurate in practice and their findings are only based on a relatively small number of samples, taken only from men,” Dr. Sarah Hazell, senior science communications officer at the nonprofit Cancer Research U.K., told the BBC. “It is another promising step towards detecting bladder cancer from urine samples, something that would ultimately provide a less invasive means of diagnosing the disease,” she added.
According to the FDA, taking Actos for one year may significantly increase patients’ risks of developing bladder cancer. In fact, the Actos safety label was updated in June 2011 to reflect this increased risk. That warning was based on the results of an ongoing 10-year study conducted by Kaiser Permanente. Studies have also continued to suggest that Actos can increase bladder cancer risks. The May 31, 2012 issue of the British Medical Journal found that Actos users were twice as likely to develop bladder cancer after two years. The July 3, 2012 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that patients taking Actos were 22 percent likelier to develop bladder cancer.