Electronic nose sniffs out prostate cancer using urine samples


May 2, 2014
Health, Technology

Novel noninvasive technique successfully discriminates between prostate cancer and benign disease in proof of principle study, paving the way for easy and early diagnosis, reports the Journal Of Urology

We may soon be able to make easy and early diagnoses of prostate cancer by smell. Investigators in Finland have established that a novel noninvasive technique can detect prostate cancer using an electronic nose. In a proof of principle study, the eNose successfully discriminated between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) by “sniffing” urine headspace (the space directly above the urine sample). Results using the eNose are comparable to testing prostate specific antigen (PSA), reports the Journal of Urology®.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in males and one of the leading causes of cancer death. The heterogeneity of prostate cancer makes it difficult to diagnose and predict tumor progression. Both of the current cornerstones of diagnosis, i.e. digital rectal examination (DRE) and PSA have limitations, while ultrasound guided biopsies are costly, uncomfortable for the patient, and have a risk of infection. Additionally, significant numbers of diagnosed prostate cancers are of low grade and will not cause symptoms or disease-specific mortality. Therefore, aggressive treatment can lead to decreased quality of life without extending the patient’s life. Thus, there is a need for novel diagnostic tools.

In the 1980s incidental reports of dogs that detected cancer in their owners sparked a number of experimental studies that have since confirmed that trained sniffer dogs can detect cancer. However, variations in the performance of dogs during and between studies have meant that these findings are of limited application. A more promising development is the growth of sensor technology (generally referred to as artificial olfaction) that has led to the invention of numerous new types of olfactory electronic sensors.

eNoses are best suited for qualitative analysis of complex gaseous mixtures of molecules, and are routinely used in food and agricultural quality control and military applications. The eNose used in the current study is a device that consists of a cluster of nonspecific sensors. When the device is exposed to the sample, it produces a profile or a “smell print.”

“eNoses have been studied in various medical applications, including early detection of cancer, especially from exhaled air,” says lead investigator Niku KJ. Oksala, MD, PhD, DSc, of the Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Tampere and Department of Vascular Surgery, Tampere University Hospital, Finland. “However, exhaled air is a problematic sample material since it requires good cooperation and technique from the patient and immediate analysis, while urine is simple to attain and store, and is therefore more feasible in clinical practice. Preliminary data suggested that detection of urologic malignancies from urine headspace was possible. Our own preliminary results on prostate cancer cells encouraged us to launch this prospective clinical study.”

The ChemPro® 100–eNose (Environics Inc., Mikkeli, Finland) was tested on 50 patients who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer confirmed by biopsy, and 15 patients with BPH. Both groups were scheduled for surgery. The patients provided urine samples before surgery and those with benign disease also provided samples three months after surgery to be used as a pooled control sample population. Patients with prostate cancer underwent robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, while the benign disease group underwent transurethral resection of prostate.

Results with the eNose confirmed that using urine headspace, the eNose is able to discriminate prostate cancer from BPH. The eNose achieved a sensitivity of 78%, specificity of 67% and AUC of 42.0.

“The performance with the eNose matches that of PSA results in previous literature and the results are achieved rapidly and in a completely noninvasive manner,” comments Dr. Oksala. “PSA is known to correlate positively with prostate volume, which is a potential source of diagnostic error when comparing prostate cancer with benign disease. According to our current analysis, prostate volume did not affect the eNose results, potentially indicating high specificity of our sensor array to cancer. We also studied whether eNose signal correlates with the size of the tumor. No such correlation was found. Further studies are now warranted to enhance current technology and to identify the molecules behind the distinct odors.”


Electronic nose sniffs out prostate cancer using urine samples

29 Responses to Electronic nose sniffs out prostate cancer using urine samples

  1. u14051606 May 5, 2014 at 2:00 am #

    The electronic nose used tot detect cancer has advanced cancer research. Cancer could be treated and possibly cured if it detected early. Prostate cancer has not been easily detectable and the development of the electronic nose and devices alike can save many lives.

  2. 13285964 May 5, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    The use of the electronic nose will be helpful tool in the medical industry, seeing that prostate cancer is not easily detectable, and according to the author the methods that are available now ” have limitations, are costly, and they are also uncomfortable for the patient. This new technology will help check for prostate cancer in a simple way. I think this equipment will go a long way in improving and saving the lives of people by early detection of the cancer tumor. Many people do not go for regular check ups because they may feel it is costly or it is just a hassle and takes too long. With the electronic nose the check up process has been simplified so more people should be open to it.

  3. Kwando (14125651) May 4, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Wow I never thought I would see such… A nose that can detect cancer is really astonishing yet simply amazing. Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death among men, older to be specific; earlier detection of the cancer by this nose will really help in decreasing the deaths caused by prostate cancer.Early detection of this cancer will give a chance at a better life for the cancer patients!

  4. MM 14060745 May 4, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    I was also interested to see how the eNose could work in situations outside of urine samples. Although it does say that “exhaled air is a problematic sample material since it requires good cooperation and technique from the patient and immediate analysis” (ScienceBlog, 2014), it has been tested in Australia to detect lung cancer. The eNose differentiated volatile organic compounds from lung cancer patients from those with a 30-pack year smoking history with 86% accuracy.It did not distinguish between different types of lung cancer. (Dent et al. 2011) Although this use of the eNose may not be as effective when analysing exhaled air as opposed to urine samples, I think it would still be very useful in detecting more forms of cancer than just prostate cancer.

  5. thomas u14021847 May 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    This is a great advancement in scientific research. This discovery of the eNose will provide a platform that will help in the prevention of deaths from prostate cancer and hopefully scientists will be able to advance the this discovery to in aiding medical teams to picking up other forms of cancer. This would one of the greatest breakthroughs the world will ever see if we are able to use the eNose to detect early signs of all forms of cancer so that patients can receive immediate medication.

  6. 14119294 May 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    since the eNose basically sniffs urine, why should it only be able to identify prostate cancer, why can’t it be beneficial to woman as well and sniff for cervical cancer? May be a good thing worth looking into.

  7. 14119294 May 4, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    As mentions in the article, A more promising development is the growth of sensor technology (generally referred to as artificial olfaction) that has led to the invention of numerous new types of olfactory electronic sensors.
    I think this is good to be researched for cancer. Prostate cancer is to be detected and eNose has already accurated.

  8. Jamie Jaars u12166520 May 4, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    what intrigues me the most about such reasearch is the way in which human senses are being incorporated into technological advancements that can help detect prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia and it can even differentiate between the two. with this new discovery, early detection can cause less aggessive treatments to be used as it has been detected early, which can in turn extend the patients life.

  9. u14020824 May 4, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    I think this is an amazing step forward in cancer research. Prostate cancer is quite difficult to detect in its early stages, and this new development can possibly save millions of lives, because as the article states, prostate cancer is the most common noncutaneous form of cancer in men. The eNose is already quite accurate, but maybe with more research and the necessary work its accuracy can be improved.

  10. u14110343 May 4, 2014 at 5:39 am #

    If prostate cancer is such a common form of cancer and leads to millions of deaths worldwide, why do men not just get the prostate removed? It would prevent any risk of not detecting the cancer in time and could save a patient who might not have the money to pay for long-term treatments or continuous testing for early detection. I also do not want to seem empathetic or cause drama, but does no one else feel that if people get diseases such as cancer it is maybe their time to go? But because no one wants to accept their fate, new ways of curing every life-threatening disease are trying to be discovered.

  11. Dylan Fromentin 14132126 May 4, 2014 at 4:41 am #

    I think the fact that artificial olfaction has advanced to the point where cancer can be detected in a urine sample is astounding! Not only will this lead to the obvious early diagnosis of cancer in men and save many lives, but can be implemented in almost any practical way. It will make the detection of almost any molecules possible enabling early warning systems to be far more efficient. Not to mention the countless other possibilities.

  12. Kgomotso 14169062 May 4, 2014 at 3:22 am #

    Strange yet interesting. I mean who would have thought that a nose albeit electronic, could potentially sniff out prostate cancer simply from smelling urine, definitely not me. I find it fascinating that it was thanks to the extreme sniffing skills of dogs that lead to this study, this shows that humans can indeed learn a lot from animals, and invent something that is utilized in the same ‘animalistic’ manner.
    I had no idea that prostate cancer was the second most common cancer found in men. What I do know is that it is a cancer that can be very severe, in that it can lead to male sterility, the loss of one or both testes and ultimately death.
    For that, I am glad the eNose was discovered. It is not only noninvasive, but it also makes diagnoses cheaper. In addition, men won’t have to be uncomfortable, as they won’t need to get a biopsy or a digital rectal examination, however, based on the specificity percentage of 67% it may be wise to still do the good old fashion tests.
    I guess everything has to have a positive and so I suppose the fact that the eNose will be able to discriminate between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia is a good thing.
    One last thing, since the eNose basically sniffs urine, why should it only be able to identify prostate cancer, why can’t it be beneficial to woman as well and sniff for cervical cancer? May be a good thing worth looking into.

  13. A.L. van Graan 14020247 May 4, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    This is a very fascinating concept and an important step forward in cancer research. It is known that tumor cells give off other gasses than normal cells, which makes it possible to detect through smell. Dogs with their heightened sense of smell are able to detect these gasses and now with the ability to create artificial noses with this heightened sense of smell, we no longer have to rely on unreliable dogs.

    This technology will make it more economical and more comfortable to diagnose cancer early in patients of all social-economical classes saving countless lives.

    Only one thing is still needed. Can we use this technology to detect all forms of cancer ?

    This is a major step in the fight against cancer and will be welcomed in the medical field.

  14. 14063052 (Jacquie) May 3, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    The new eNose invention is a powerful tool and is a great contribution to the diagnosis of cancers to help try and fight this devastating disease. The simplicity of this detecting technique will encourage early detection of prostate cancer due to the mere fact that it is not an invasive procedure and men will be more likely to go for their annual check-up which should be done over the age over 40 years.

    Not only has this article given details of proven statistical research, but also encourages readers on-going interest as more research is to be done. Further investigation will spark readers interest to encourage them to review this blog at a later stage.

    Early detection is the key to enabling better outcomes as prostate cancer is the only cancer that patients outlive.

  15. Mikaela 14060745 May 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    This is a fascinating concept. It is a much more economical and accessible procedure so that people who cannot afford good healthcare are able to be diagnosed as soon as possible. The most attractive concept for me would be the fact that it is non invasive. This makes people less intimidated to have a possible form of cancer examined. A wonderful advancement in medicine and technology!

  16. Matt 14011248 May 3, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    I think that this new device is an amazing and revolutionary step forward. It can easily and efficiently detect the presence of cancer.

    This method of detection requires a lot less time and is also less invasive. Both of these points will encourage men to get tested. This is a positive thing as early detection of this disease can be the difference between life and death.

    Early detection of cancer is a vital point in curing cancer. Hopefully this new device can help to save many lives.

  17. James - 14081441 May 3, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    The electronic nose( eNose) is a perfect representation of how nature and technology work together to produce an extremely power tool for analysis.

    The current method of examination and biopsy used to diagnose patients with prostate cancer can be “hit or miss” and is both costly and invasive. This technology has opened up a new realm of medical technology and research able to more efficiently diagnose disease at a fraction of the cost and time normally required. A portable eNose that integrates with a mobile device has also been used in to food industry to detect food poisoning and the freshness of food.

    The eNose has proven that processes already in use in nature that are taken for granted every day, have the ability to revolutionize the medial field and beyond.

  18. 12283593 May 3, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    The mere fact that a human sense was incorporated into r machine is just mind blowing

  19. 14109094 May 3, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    These tests have less limitations and are preferable in the sense that the diagnosis is not as invasive and uncomfortable as the preceding methods of prostate cancer diagnosis. Many people are put off by the invasive nature of such examinations and thus are reluctant to be tested at regular intervals. This method would allow more people to get tested more regularly and thus has the potential to save many more lives. I find it fascinating that sniffer dogs were able to detect prostate cancer, and wonder if such methods would have applications in detecting other forms of cancer. This is a monumental step forward in the pursuit of treating cancer. Well done to the researchers, I believe they were situated in Finland.

  20. Castyn Winfield 12026795 May 3, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    I have always been interested in the development and discoveries in the field of medicine and how it has advanced in the last few years, this new eNose is an exceptional example of those discoveries. This is very interesting to me because this just proves the extent researchers go to for one specific illness. The discovery is relevant because prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men and I also agree with 14086442-Clarke that why cant this be used to detect cervical cancer in women. It would be interesting to see further development of this discovery.

  21. A. Kloppers 14006368 May 3, 2014 at 1:02 am #

    Well this is very interesting. If I did not read this myself, I would not have believed it. Who would have thought that this would someday be possible. To detect prostate cancer with an eNose?

    This is an amazing discovery and so many lives can be saved by using this “eNose”. Early detection is critical.Another great thing about this eNose is that it is noninvasive. This is a very good thing because it puts the patient at ease.

    This discovery is a real breakthrough in cancer research and it must continue. We need more of these kinds of breakthroughs in cancer research. Lives are lost everyday. This eNose is one of a kind and maybe one day it can be used to detect other types of cancer?

  22. Matthew(14104131) May 3, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    This is an incredible discovery because of the effect cancer has on everyone and not only the patients. But I am more interested in the use of animals in the detection of cancer. Have they researched into what other illnesses in which animals are able to detect? That could be very interesting,

  23. Kagiso(13355377) May 2, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Well this is quite fascinating, who would have thought that one day an electronic nose would be used to detect cancer, not to mention that the idea was derived from a dog. This information is worth sharing; however, most men should be focusing more on preventing prostate cancer, unlike waiting for the bad news from a urologist. But overall the discovery is good and more of such bright minds are needed in order to make these kinds of groundbreaking discoveries.

  24. 14086442 - Clarke May 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Strange yet interesting. I mean who would have thought that a nose albeit electronic, could potentially sniff out prostate cancer simply from smelling urine, definitely not me. I find it fascinating that it was thanks to the extreme sniffing skills of dogs that lead to this study, this shows that humans can indeed learn a lot from animals, and invent something that is utilized in the same ‘animalistic’ manner.

    I had no idea that prostate cancer was the second most common cancer found in men. What I do know is that it is a cancer that can be very severe, in that it can lead to male sterility, the loss of one or both testes and ultimately death.

    For that, I am glad the eNose was discovered. It is not only noninvasive, but it also makes diagnoses cheaper. In addition, men won’t have to be uncomfortable, as they won’t need to get a biopsy or a digital rectal examination, however, based on the specificity percentage of 67% it may be wise to still do the good old fashion tests.

    I guess everything has to have a positive and so I suppose the fact that the eNose will be able to discriminate between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia is a good thing.

    One last thing, since the eNose basically sniffs urine, why should it only be able to identify prostate cancer, why can’t it be beneficial to woman as well and sniff for cervical cancer? May be a good thing worth looking into.

  25. Nicole (14012287) May 2, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    It is incredible the discoveries and advancements people have made in the field of medicine. The eNose may only determine whether a patient has prostate cancer or BPH but this opens many doors for using this technique to diagnose other diseases creating endless possibilities. This is a very exciting new development and I would love to see how it continues to improve and how scientists incorporate this technology into other diseases and even to other fields. I honestly cannot believe that something like this exists and it is beyond extraordinary.

  26. u14031354 May 2, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    The electronic nose is an amazing development for technology and medicine. It will make a huge impact in the early detection of prostate cancer and help decrease deaths caused by prostate cancer. Maybe in the future, this technology will be able to detect other cancers as well.

  27. Manakana Kamogelo (u14027110) May 2, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Novel noninvasive technique to detect prostate using an electronic, is it used only to discriminates between prostrate cancer and benign disease?

  28. 14024617 May 2, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    it works by using a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry technique, the identification and/or quantification of molecules that form part of the odor can be performed, but no information about odor character can be acquired. By using a sensory analysis, such as olfactometry, the overall sensation of the odor is evaluated, and odor concentration can be determined and quantified.

  29. omphile May 2, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    How does this nose operate? how is the information of scent processed

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