Japanese engineering and IT firm Hitachi plans to carry out what it claims to be the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples.

If the experiment proves successful, the test could improve the speed and ease of cancer screening significantly.

Hitachi developed the basic technology for detecting breast and colon cancer from urine samples two years ago. The firms’ latest experiment is based in Japan and will involve testing the method on 250 urine samples to observe whether room temperature samples are suitable for analysis. Hitachi will be collaborating with Nagoya University in Japan to conduct the research.

The overall concept is based on patients being able to send urine samples for analysis by post.  Hitachi’s senior official Shinji Yamada says he believes ‘a mail-in urine test’ will make it easier for many people to undergo screening.

Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira said: “If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organisation for a blood test.”

Odaira also highlighted the paediatric care advantages of the test, suggesting that this approach would be beneficial because small children are often afraid of needles and more invasive cancer detection methods.

Hitachi centres its medical technology on detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as biomarkers indicating the disease. With the procedure, the company is aiming to improve the early detection of cancer, save lives and reduce the medical and social cost of cancer detection.

Odaira added: “We aim to put the technology in use in the 2020s, although this depends on various things such as getting approval from the authorities.”