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New Sensor Device Enables Early Diagnosis of Gastric Cancer

Early diagnosis of gastric cancer based on the exhaled breath of a person has now become a reality, thanks to a tiny sensor device called SniffPhone which is presently in its prototype phase.

SniffPhone prototype (Image credit: JLM Innovation GmbH)

The innovative approach could transform cancer screening across the globe. VTT was involved in the development of the concept and prototype of SniffPhone with nine other project partners.

This tiny small sensor device was specifically designed for cancer screening and can be fixed to a smartphone. Usually, a breath sample is obtained by allowing users to first hold the device in front of their mouths and then exhale onto the sensor.

Using highly sensitive nanotechnology-based chemical sensors, the device determines the contained volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. With the help of a smartphone, the resultant measurements are subsequently sent to a dedicated cloud platform through Bluetooth, where they are examined by concerned medical personnel.

The novel cancer screening technique offers a number of benefits over conventional approaches. The sensor device is pain-free and comfortable to use, and it also offers a fast, easy, and economical option for screening gastric cancers. In the project, prototypes of SniffPhone have been created and verified through clinical studies, for instance. Now, finding financiers for this kind of new cancer screening technique is the subsequent step of the project. It has been planned to commercialize the device via a spin-off company.

The contribution of VTT in this project was the implementation of the platform for transmuting information from the smartphone to a dedicated cloud-based storage space. In addition, VTT has been developing analysis techniques and tools for detecting high-risk patients. VTT has also created a mobile application that direct users in providing a breath sample and offers them a preliminary sample analysis. Moreover, in order to show the analysis results of breath samples, a physician’s analysis tool has also been created.

VTT also supervised the implementation of responsible study and innovations in the research project through a number of techniques, like engaging stakeholders and end users in the development work via workshops and interviews and combining responsible design practices into the study operations.

The SniffPhone project is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 Funding Program. Nine partners are included in the project consortium: the coordinator Technion—Israel Institute of Technology (Israel), Cellix Ltd (Ireland), NanoVation (Israel), University of Latvia (Latvia), microfluidic ChipShop (Germany), Siemens (Germany), University of Innsbruck (Austria), VTT, and JLM Innovation GmbH (Germany).

The SniffPhone project received the 2018 Innovation Award by the European Commission for Most Innovative Project, on November 21st, 2018.

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