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Electronic Nose Accurately Diagnoses Prostate Tumor Using Urine Sample

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Dec 2022

The diagnosis of prostate cancer using a non-invasive method and with greater accuracy than traditional diagnostic procedures is ever closer to becoming a reality. This has been confirmed by the data in a study which tested the efficacy of the first prototype of an electronic nose that can identify the presence of a tumor from a urine sample, by recognizing specific volatile molecules.

Diag-Nose – the name of the project which created the first experimental prototype – is the result of close collaboration between Humanitas Mater Domini (Castellanza VA, Italy) and the Polytechnic University of Milan (Milan, Italy). The project involved 174 people divided into two groups: 88 patients with prostate cancer of varying grades and stages confirmed by a histological examination, and 86 people in the “control” group comprising men and women of different ages with no history of the disease who had undergone medical examinations (including for PSA). A urine sample was collected from each person and analyzed.


Image: Prototype of an electronic nose capable of diagnosing tumor using urine sample (Photo courtesy of Polytechnic University of Milan)
Image: Prototype of an electronic nose capable of diagnosing tumor using urine sample (Photo courtesy of Polytechnic University of Milan)

The preliminary results are encouraging. The electronic nose was found to correctly provide a positive result for patients with tumors in 85.2% of cases. It has an accuracy – that is the ability to make a correct diagnosis, whether negative or positive – of 82.1%. For men over the age of 45 only, the age range most affected by the disease but also the most difficult to correctly diagnose, the accuracy stands at 81%. The prototype has other significant benefits when compared to the traditional method of a biopsy: as well as being an invasive procedure, biopsies have a particularly high rate of false negatives for early-stage tumors due to the fact that only a small portion of tissue is collected and analyzed.

“Prostate biopsy is currently the gold standard for the diagnosis of cancer of this gland. Despite the greater precision that the procedure has achieved through the use of magnetic resonance imaging to guide the collection of the tissue samples, the tumor detection rate reaches 48.5% at the most. This percentage is significantly lower than that of the electronic nose which, in addition to greater diagnostic accuracy, would limit the inconvenience and complications for the patient”, explained the author of the study, Dr. Gianluigi Taverna, Urology Coordinator at Humanitas Mater Domini and a doctor-researcher at the Humanitas Research Hospital.

“For the electronic nose to effectively become a part of everyday clinical practice, further large-scale studies will be necessary, which will allow us to confirm the results already obtained and to develop the prototype's potential. Therefore, the next step towards making the electronic nose a reality is to validate it by involving international clinical institutes,” concluded Gianluigi Taverna and Fabio Grizzi, a researcher at the laboratories of the Humanitas Research Hospital, where he is also in charge of the histology service.

Related Links:
Polytechnic University of Milan
Humanitas Mater Domini 


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