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Owlstone Medical, HFIAW Say Breath-Based Biomarkers Could Help Detect Mesothelioma Sooner

The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (HFIAW or Insulators) and Owlstone Medical have joined forces to identify and verify breath-based biomarkers for the early detection of malignant mesothelioma. Current available tests for mesothelioma include blood tests, fluid and tissue sample tests, biopsies, and imaging tests.

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 sooner and in its most treatable stages.

According to GenomeWeb, the goal of the Owlstone-HFIAW 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.” Breath Biopsy, Owlstone’s method to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath, will be used in the study. 

The study, which is expected to take place over three years, will be divided into two phases:

Phase I

investigators will focus on identifying VOCs in the breath of people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.

Phase II

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.

Per Owlstone and HFIAW, “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.”

Billy Boyle, cofounder and CEO of UK-based Owlstone Medical, said through the partnership with HFIAW, 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 Maryland-based trade union that serves the United States and Canada. Through its Tissue Bank Asbestos Research Charitable Trust, this non-profit organization will provide financial support for the study.


About Owlstone Medical

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

If you have been exposed to asbestos, 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.