Quick and simple tests in GP surgeries could detect cancer of the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, colon or liver

Simply blowing into a bag at a GP’s surgery could show that a patient has cancer. That is the aim of an ambitious new project that is going through its final clinical trials in the UK. If successful, cancer breath tests could be used in a few years in order to pinpoint a range of tumours in the early stages of their development.

The technique is primarily aimed at detecting cancers of the gut, including those of the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas and colon, but could also be used to pinpoint cases of liver cancer. In total, these tumours formed more than 20% of all cancer cases in the world, said the project’s leader, Prof George Hanna of Imperial College London. “We have been working on this technique for more than 15 years and have now reached the stage where we are going through final clinical trials,” he told the Observer.