Detecting Breast Cancer in Women with Dense Breast Tissue – Exhaled Breath Holds Promise

MONCTON, NB, May 26th, 2023 – Breath biomarkers demonstrate high accuracy in detecting early-stage breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.

(from left to right) RN Donna Fairweather & Dr. Farah Naz with Breathe BioMedical’s breath sampler

Innovative research using Breathe BioMedical’s breath analytics technology has shown promising results in a preliminary analysis demonstrating 88.2% accuracy in detecting early-stage breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue. These exciting results were found to be independent of breast tissue density which is especially important given some of the challenges with medical imaging in women with dense breast tissue. The abstract, entitled, “Impact of breast density on classification of infrared spectroscopy for breath-based breast cancer screening” has been published online for the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). This research was led by Dr. Farah Naz, Clinical & Academic Head of Oncology at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Breathe BioMedical’s breath analytics technology was used in this study to collect and analyze breath samples from 111 participants (71 patients with breast cancer and 40 controls). The subgroup analysis, comparing results in patients with dense breast tissue (31), versus those without (30), found that test accuracy is independent of breast tissue density. This research is being conducted in partnership with the Horizon Health Network, with machine learning analysis conducted by the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick, and funding support from ResearchNB.

“I am excited with the preliminary results we are seeing in breast cancer detection using analysis of volatile organic chemicals in the breath.” says Dr. Naz. “These are promising results, especially for women with dense breasts. This technique could be a simple but valuable addition to mammography for breast cancer screening. I think breath analysis technology could potentially even be used as a primary screening tool for breast cancer in the future.”

Mammography, the current standard of care for breast cancer screening, has one of the highest participation rates for a cancer screening program, with nearly 70% of women aged 50 and older receiving the recommended screening in Canada. [1] As referenced above, one of the challenges of mammography is that dense breast tissue can obscure potential cancerous tumor(s) in the mammogram image. Notably, nearly 50% of women over the age of 40 have dense breast tissue. [2] Evidence suggests that these women are 4-5 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with non-dense breast tissue. [3]

“These ground-breaking results from Dr. Farah Naz’s research could change the process of breast cancer screening for women with dense breast tissue,” says Dr. Stephen Graham, CEO of Breathe BioMedical. “Studies show that mammograms can miss about half of the cancer in women with dense breast tissue. There is a clear unmet clinical need for healthcare providers to have secondary screening methods adjunct to mammograms, and an opportunity to increase accuracy in women with dense breast tissue. Our non invasive breath test may serve as a lifesaving follow-up to mammography for these women.”

Breast cancer is one of the world’s most prevalent cancers, according to the World Health Organization. In 2020 alone, over 2.3 million people were diagnosed with breast cancer. Recently, the US Preventative Services Task Force updated their breast cancer screening to start screening at 40 years old, rather than the previous recommended screening age of 50. [4]

Breathe BioMedical’s mission began with creating an accessible breath test for lung cancer. These exciting results in breast cancer demonstrate the utility of our breath test as a platform technology that can be used to detect multiple diseases. We will continue our commitment to quality research in hopes of creating new screening tools that can support patients, their families, clinicians and healthcare systems.

To learn more about the research and to read the abstract, click here. 

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About Breathe BioMedical: Breathe BioMedical is a Canadian medical device company developing and manufacturing ground-breaking technology for breath analytics including our FDA-listed breath collection device SohnoXB. Breath analytics involves the collection, processing and analysis of breath samples to identify biomarkers patterns associated with specific diseases. Breathe BioMedical has completed a proof-of-concept study demonstrating our technology’s ability to detect non-small cell lung cancer with accuracy of 86.1%. Breathe BioMedical has also partnered on two additional independent research studies to detect breast cancer and COVID-19 with plans to expand research in 2022. Breathe BioMedical’s research and development laboratory is in Moncton, New Brunswick and its US subsidiary is located in Boston, MA. One day, detecting disease will be as easy as breathing in and out.

About Horizon Health Network: Horizon Health Network is the largest regional health authority – and one of the largest employers – in New Brunswick, and the second-largest health authority in Atlantic Canada. Our leadership and health care providers are experts in diverse areas of health and community services and provide services to a half a million people. Horizon is home to a number of renowned research teams and centres, studying a wide range of diseases and disorders across the lifespan.

About Research NB: ResearchNB is the hub of the province’s research and innovation engine. Created through a merger of the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and BioNB, ResearchNB provides the province’s research sector with critical leadership and support including advocacy, initial funding, connections to potential partners, and the translation of science into economic opportunities. It promotes research excellence and fosters win-win collaborations to drive advancements in patient care, a thriving bioeconomy and increased economic growth.

References:
[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/reports-publications/health-promotion-chronic-disease-prevention-canada-research-policy-practice/vol-31-no-4-2011/review-screening-mammography-participation-utilization-canada.html 
[2] https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/dense-breasts.htm 
[3] https://www.komen.org/breast-cancer/risk-factor/references/ 
[4] https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/09/health/breast-cancer-screening-age-40-uspstf/index.html