“Breathalyzer” For Lung Cancer Wins $100K Entrepreneurship Competition

Fitness & Health / Science

A breathalyzer is usually used in instances where you’ve done something wrong, and a need arises to determine just how far out of bounds you are. There are definitely exceptions to that rule, but for the most part, a breathalyzer is usually associated with some sort of punishment. A team of students from MIT and Harvard have developed a different variety of breathalyzer, one that can detect early signs of lung cancer. The team recently won a $100,000 prize at the 27th annual Entrepreneurship Competition.


Astraeus Technologies (left to right): Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, and Joseph Azzarelli. Photo Courtesy of MIT News

Lung cancer is one of the most deadly types of cancer, and the current screening processes to diagnose the disease are both expensive and unreliable. Due to the inherent risks and costs, only a very small fraction of those at risk for lung cancer are screened each year. The winning invention from Astraeus Technologies will provide a cheaper and safer scanning process that should be able to reach a much larger percentage of at risk patients.

The team created what they are calling the L CARD (Chemically Actuated Resonate Device), which detects certain gases in the breath that would indicate lung cancer. In its current form, the postage stamp-sized sensor will relay its findings to a connected cell phone that will flash red if these specific gasses are found and green if they are not. During the competition, the team sprayed a syringe of the indicative gases onto their sensor, causing it to flash red.

The sensor itself has some similarities to the NFC tags we’re accustomed to.

The L CARD is essentially a modified near-field communication tag. Certain volatile organic compounds unique to the breath of lung cancer patients modify the tag’s radio frequency identification signal. A smartphone then pings the device and determines, from the modified signal, if those volatile compounds are present.

According to team member Jay Kumar, the L CARD is at least ten times more accurate than the current CT scan used to check for lung cancer risk. It’s also significantly less expensive. A CT scan will routinely cost anywhere from $800 and up. The L CARD sensor can be made for less than $1. Kumar continued:

We’re going after lung cancer. The root cause is bad screening: We’ve developed a better screening test, and it’s cost effective.

Astraeus Technologies plans to sell L CARDS directly to hospitals and clinics for their use in routine testing.

What do you think about safer, less expensive tests for lung cancer? Let us know in the comment section below or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

  Source: MIT News
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