Researchers have developed a fluorescence-based sensor device that can rapidly identify cancer-related volatile organic compounds found exclusively in the exhaled breath of some people with lung cancer. Their work demonstrates the potential of the device to be used as a breathalyzer for early lung cancer detection.
Based on a small, circular plate called fluorescent cross-responsive sensor array, a specially designed rotary gas chamber and a data collection and processing system, the device can detect lung cancer-related gases at very low concentration, showing a potential to identify lung cancer at the early stage. Currently, doctors can detect lung cancer in its earliest stages by using methods like CT scans, but there are no simple, safe, and effective methods that can detect lung cancer at the early stage.
In experiments, four kinds of lung cancer-related volatile organic compounds were selected and uniformly distributed in a gas chamber to each responsive spot in the sensor array. A light source containing excites the fluorescent spectra of the array, which is later collected and analyzed to produce a unique spectrum for each gas. By extracting the characteristic matrix of spectra and comparing with the existed fluorescent database, researchers can identify and quantify a specific gas.