Owlstone Medical and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Initiate Pan Cancer Clinical Trial to Evaluate Breath Biopsy for Early Detection of Disease

Published on: 10 Jul 2017, under Breath Biopsy

Trial aims to identify breath biomarkers to improve the early detection and diagnosis of different cancer types. 

Cambridge, UK, July 10 2017: Owlstone Medical, a diagnostics company developing a breathalyzer for disease, today announced the initiation of the PAN Cancer trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath. The large scale clinical study will evaluate the use of Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy® platform for the early detection of multiple cancer types.

The PAN Cancer trial is being conducted in collaboration with a team of leading cancer researchers at the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Centre, the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The Chief Investigator is Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, who is co-lead of the CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme, Professor of Cancer Prevention at the MRC Cancer Unit, and an Honorary Consultant in Gastroenterology and General Medicine at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.

The PAN Cancer trial aims to develop breath biopsy tests for the early detection of bladder, breast, head and neck, kidney, oesophageal, pancreatic and prostate cancers and brain tumours, with the ultimate aim of detecting cancer much earlier, when better treatment options are available and more lives can be saved.

Cancer killed 8.8 million people worldwide in 2015 alone, and one in two people will develop the disease in their lifetime. Despite considerable progress in the development of new therapies, survival remains persistently low for several cancer types. One of the greatest opportunities to improve the number of cancer patients who survive lies in increasing rates of early diagnosis through improved cancer screening and treating when interventions are likely to be more effective. Identifying non-invasive breath biomarkers for early detection will especially improve the survival of patients with forms of cancer that are difficult to detect, and as a result are often diagnosed at a late stage.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, the study’s Chief Investigator said: “New tools that can help to diagnose cancer earlier are urgently needed and we are very pleased to collaborate with Owlstone Medical to evaluate Breath Biopsy for early detection. The PAN Cancer trial forms part of our Early Detection Programme, a flagship initiative of the CRUK Cambridge Centre that aims to devise better means of detecting cancer and diagnosing it in the early stages, which can lead to improved outcomes for cancer patients.”

Professor Duncan Jodrell, Director of the Cambridge Cancer Trials Centre (CTCC) and Professor of Cancer Therapeutics at the University of Cambridge, commented: “In pancreatic cancer, for example, only 1% of patients will survive for 10 years – a figure which has changed very little in the last 40 years. New and improved methods for early detection will be crucial to enable us to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer earlier and help more patients survive.”

Professor Richard Gilbertson, Li Ka Shing Chair of Oncology, Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre and Head of the Department of Oncology at the University of Cambridge, said: “By 2030, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to around 22 million globally. Some cancers are diagnosed very late when there are few treatment options available. Non-invasive detection of cancer in breath could make a real difference to survival. As a Cancer Research UK Major Centre, Cambridge is working hard to realise CRUK’s vision of diagnosing more cancers earlier so that we can work closer to the day when all patients are cured of cancer.”

The trial will use Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy platform, which enables Volatile Organic Compound biomarkers to be captured completely non-invasively in a breath sample, and analyzed with high sensitivity and selectivity. Patients with a suspected cancer diagnosis, who are referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for clinical assessment as part of the standard NHS cancer care pathway, will be asked to give a breath sample in addition to routine tests.

The breath samples will be collected in clinic using Owlstone Medical’s CE-marked ReCIVA Breath Sampler, before shipping to the world’s first Breath Biopsy clinical laboratory for analysis at Owlstone Medical in Cambridge, UK. The trial will compare the breath samples of patients with, and without, cancer to assess whether reliable biomarkers for early diagnosis of cancer can be identified in breath.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, commented: “Positive results from the PAN Cancer trial could be game-changing in the fight against cancer: Breath Biopsy tests for cancer detection and diagnosis have the potential to greatly improve survival across a range of cancers. Our Breath Biopsy platform is already being assessed in large scale clinical trials for the non-invasive, early detection of lung and colon cancer, and it will be exciting to see how its use can be extended to other cancer types. Success in this study would make a real difference to the lives of millions of people, and supports our vision of saving 100,000 lives and $1.5 billion in healthcare costs.”

“We are very proud to have the opportunity to work with these worldleading research teams on this ground breaking trial, which could have a great impact on improving cancer survival.”

For further information on Owlstone Medical’s clinical pipeline visit: www.owlstonemedical.com/clinical-pipeline/


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About Owlstone Medical

Owlstone Medical has developed a breathalyzer for disease. With a focus on non-invasive early detection and precision medicine for cancer, inflammatory disease and infectious disease, the company aims to save 100,000 lives and $1.5B in healthcare costs.

Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy® platform is a new diagnostic modality capable of detecting disease biomarkers in breath. The award winning ReCIVA Breath Sampler ensures reliable collection of breath samples. VOC (Volatile organic compound) biomarkers present in breath are analyzed with high sensitivity and selectivity using proven microchip chemical sensor technology (Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry, FAIMS).

The Breath Biopsy platform has the potential to revolutionize early detection and precision medicine, with applications in cancer and a wide range of other conditions. Breath Biopsy enables disease to be detected earlier, when treatments are more effective and more lives can be saved. By identifying patients most likely to respond to a particular therapy, Breath Biopsy can also ensure that the right therapy is given to the right patient at the right time, helping to reduce healthcare costs.

Owlstone Medical is currently developing tests for lung and colorectal cancer, two of the most common cancer killers worldwide, and for asthma stratification by therapeutic response. The company also provides Breath Biopsy products and services to academic, clinical and pharmaceutical partners who want to develop breath based biomarkers for their own applications.

Owlstone Inc was founded in 2004 as a spin-out from the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge, and is a profitable business selling FAIMS technology to military and industrial customers globally. Owlstone Medical was spun out from Owlstone Inc in 2016 to develop and commercialize FAIMS in medical applications.

Owlstone Medical is headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with offices in London, UK.

About Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre

The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre is a dynamic collaboration of over 600 academic researchers, clinicians, and scientists in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, based in the Cambridge area. The Centre combines world-class science and technology with excellent patient care to pioneer new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose and treat cancer. By working together across different disciplines, the Centre is breaking down the barriers between the laboratory and the clinic, enabling patients to benefit from the latest innovations in cancer science faster. The formal partners of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre are Cancer Research UK, the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

About Cambridge University Hospitals

Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) is one of the largest and best known hospitals in the country, delivering high-quality patient care through Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals. CUH is a leading national centre for specialist treatment for rare or complex conditions and a university teaching hospital with a worldwide reputation.

CUH is a key partner in Cambridge University Health Partners (CUHP), one of only six academic health science centres in the UK, and is at the heart of the development of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC), which brings together on one site world-class biomedical research, patient care and education. As part of the Campus development, Papworth Hospital is creating a bespoke, purpose-built hospital, and AstraZeneca is building a new global R&D centre and corporate headquarters. The Campus is one of the government’s 11 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) comprehensive biomedical research centres.


  1. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Based on the combined number of deaths from cancer and all deaths in 2015. Source: Global Burden of Disease, 2015. Link: http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(16)31012-1.pdf
  2. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/risk/lifetime-risk
  3. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/pancreatic-cancer
  4. Global cancer transitions according to the Human Development Index (2008–2030): a population-based study. Link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470204512702115?showall%3Dtrue%26via%3Dihub