Chewing Gum To Detect Cancer: Reporting The Hype, Diminishing The Facts

Sometimes It’s important to know the news behind the news: the comments and the cautions that don’t get into the article that the public gets to read. It’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night: trying to convey the reality, while realizing what most people want to hear is the hope.

That’s the problem I have with a story posted on a major news network website yesterday, where I have a brief quotation that failed to capture the thoughts I tried to express at the time of the interview. The reporter had very limited time, and the information I wanted to provide was complicated. Instead of the caution I tried to convey to counter the potential “hype” about chewing gum to find cancer early, the report suggests that this is a test that will be available soon—while failing to inform how complicated it would be to achieve that goal.… Continue reading →

Will Odors Help Us Find Cancer Early?

Bow-wow or squeak-squeak?


When it comes to “sniffing” out cancer, it looks like you may have a choice.


New medical research suggests that dogs and mice may just give us the clue to finding cancer early.


An article in the current issue of the online medical journal PLoS One describes the research of a group of scientists in Philadelphia that trained mice to smell the urine of other mice to determine which mice had lung cancer.


And the experiment was a success: the “smeller” mice were able to tell which of the other mice had lung cancer with a fairly high degree of success.  Unfortunately, their success was limited to later stage cancers and the very early stage lung cancers were missed.


In the next step of the experiment, the researchers did laboratory studies to look at what are called “volatile compounds” in the urine by analyzing the urine samples on a specialized machine that can identify small quantities of chemicals.


(Volatile compounds are substances that can exist in a liquid and gas phase.  So, while they may be contained in urine, once passed out of the body they move into a … Continue reading →