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Electronic Nose Sniffs Out Side Effects of Radiotherapy

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 05 Mar 2013
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Researchers have recently completed a study that may lead to clinicians being able to more effectively predict which patients will suffer from the side effects of radiotherapy.

Gastrointestinal side effects are typical occurrences in radiotherapy patients and are at times severe, but there are no existing means of predicting which patients will suffer from them. The pilot study’s findings, published September 2012 in the journal Sensors, described how the use of an electronic nose and a newer technology, field asymmetric ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS) might help identify those at higher risk.

University of Warwick Medical School (Coventry, UK), working in collaboration with the School of Engineering and The Royal Marsden NHS [National Health Service] Foundation Trust (London, UK), led by Dr. J. Andreyev, conducted a pilot study to look into the connection between levels of toxicity in the gut and the probability of suffering side effects.

Dr. Ramesh Arasaradnam, from Warwick Medical School and gastroenterologist at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire, summarized the outcome of the study findings. “In the simplest terms, we believe that patterns in toxicity levels arise from differences in a patient's gut microflora. By using this technology we can analyze stool samples and sniff out the chemicals that are produced by these microflora to better predict the risk of side effects.”

The pilot study’s success should lead to a wider study into the possible uses of these technologies and could be truly significant in helping clinicians inform patients receiving pelvic radiotherapy, before treatment is initiated. Dr. Arasaradnam clarified what this could suggest for radiotherapy patients, “In essence, we will be able to predict those who are likely to develop severe gut related side effects by the pattern of gut fermentation that are altered as a result of radiotherapy. This will enable future directed therapy in these high risk groups.”

Dr. James Covington, from the Warwick School of Engineering, added, “This technology offers considerable opportunities for the future. This shows just one application of being able to inform treatment by ‘sniffing’ patients. We foresee a time when such technology will become as routine a diagnostic test as checking blood pressure is today.”

In 2009, the same cutting edge gas sensor technology was taken from the automotive world and used to research into faster diagnosis for some gastrointestinal illnesses and metabolic disorders.

Related Links:
University of Warwick Medical School
Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

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