Cancer-detecting chewing gum could replace blood tests


In an effort to make cancer diagnosis simple, a biotechnology company has developed chewing gum that could determine whether or not an individual has cancer. According to scientists behind the initiative, the gum absorbs what are called ‘volatiles’, which are chemical compounds that are released by certain forms of cancer in the person’s saliva as they chew it. After it has been chewed for 15 minutes, the product is then analysed to determine whether or not it contains these specific chemicals.

So far, the scientists at the Alabama-based firm, ‘Volatile Analysis’ have developed different types of gum that can detect pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer. According to the researchers, if this procedure was successful, it could mean the end of blood tests, urine samples and biopsies.

Chemicalsproducedinthe body, called volatile organic compounds, are unique to each type of cancer. For example, a healthy lung and a lung infected with cancer exhale different compounds.

Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. It is characterised by out-of-control cell growth and there are over 100 different types of cancer.

Nigeria records 100,000 new cancer cases yearly. Katherine Bazemore, president and Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Volatile Analysis, teamed up with non-profit Hudson Alpha to develop the product. She explained that by determining which of those compounds are found in the gum, doctors can tell which type of cancer is present in the patient. “Technically, the gum concentrates the volatiles,” she added.

She said:“Each disease has different chemicals that come out through your breath.” Bazemore explained that gum remains in your mouth over an extended period of time and is durable enough to withstand testing. Patients would only have to chew the gum for about 15 minutes.

Right now, different types of gum can detect pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer. Bazemore is hopeful that they will soon have a singular product that will detect three or four different cancers and diseases. With use of the gum, patients would no longer need to go through blood tests or biopsies