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Innovative Medical Firm, Historic Trade Union Join Forces to Develop Breath Test for Mesothelioma

UK-based Owlstone Medical and the Maryland-based International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (HFIAW or Insulators) have joined forces to identify and verify breath-based biomarkers for the early detection of malignant mesothelioma.

The goal of the partnership is to “address the need for early detection by analyzing chemicals found in the breath of people with documented historical exposure to asbestos and radiologically and histologically confirmed mesothelioma,” reports GenomeWeb.

Current available tests for mesothelioma include blood tests, fluid and tissue sample tests, biopsies, and imaging tests. Unfortunately, many of these tests are administered after symptoms of the disease have already developed. Once symptoms have developed, mesothelioma has already reached an advanced stage. Owlstone and HFIAW believe that utilizing breath-based biomarkers could help catch the disease earlier and in its most treatable stages.

Breath Biopsy, Owlstone’s method to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath, will be used in the study, which is expected to take place over three years. The study will be divided into two phases: Phase I, where investigators will focus on identifying VOCs in the breath of people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and Phase II, where investigators will conduct a blind study to verify the sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of selected VOC biomarkers identified in the first phase.

Investigators will collect breath samples using Owlstone Medical’s ReCiva Breath Sampler and analyze them in the firm's laboratory in Cambridge.

“Identifying people among this population who are either predisposed to developing malignant mesothelioma or who already have early-stage disease would likely dramatically improve prognosis by limiting disease progression through earlier therapeutic interventions,” said Owlstone and HFIAW.

Through the partnership with HFIAW, Billy Boyle, cofounder and CEO of UK-based Owlstone Medical, said the firm is "looking not only to advance the early diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, but also to demonstrate that breath-based screening has the potential to have a substantial impact on a wide range of environment-driven disease."

Established in 1903, HFIAW is a non-profit organization that serves the United States and Canada. The organization will provide financial support for the study through its Tissue Bank Asbestos Research Charitable Trust.


About Owlstone Medical

In addition to developing a breathalyzer for malignant mesothelioma, Owlstone Medical is currently developing tests for lung and colorectal cancer, two of the most common cancer killers worldwide. With a focus on non-invasive diagnostics for cancer, inflammatory disease, and infectious disease, the company aims to save 100,000 lives and $1.5 billion in healthcare costs.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, don’t hesitate—see your doctor right away. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes. See your doctor to assess your risk today.




Catino, Annamaria, Domenico Galette, and Jolanda Palmisani. “Breath Analysis: A Systematic Review of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Diagnostic and Therapeutic Management of Pleural Mesothelioma.” U.S. National Library of Medicine (NML). National Institutes of Health (NIH), 14 Jun. 2019. Web. 04 Aug. 2019. International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (HFIAW or Insulators), 2018. Web. 04 Aug. 2019.

“Mesothelioma: Tests, Diagnosis, and Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD LLC., 2005-2019. Web. 04 Aug. 2019.

Owlstone Medical. Owlstone Medical Ltd., 2019. Web. 04 Aug. 2019.

“Owlstone Medical’s new alliance to create breath test for mesothelioma.” Verdict Media Limited, 06 Jun. 2019. Web. 04 Aug. 2019.

“Owlstone Medical, Trade Union Partner on Breath-Based Biomarkers for Malignant Mesothelioma.” GenomeWeb LLC., 05 Jun. 2019. Web. 04 Aug. 2019.