UK-based diagnostics company Owlstone Medical has partnered with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) to detect and validate breath biomarkers to identify malignant mesothelioma.

The two-phase, three-year project will use Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy technology to analyse the chemicals found on the breath of individuals who have been exposed to asbestos and with radiologically and histologically confirmed mesothelioma.

IAHFIAW’s not-for-profit Tissue Bank Asbestos Research Charitable Trust will fund the project.

During the first phase, the partners will work to discover volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the breath of malignant mesothelioma patients.

The second phase will involve a blind study that will validate the sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of certain VOC biomarkers identified in the first phase.

Owlstone Medical’s ReCIVA Breath Sampler will be used to collect samples, which will be analysed at the company’s Breath Biopsy laboratory in Cambridge, UK.

Owlstone Medical co-founder and CEO Billy Boyle said: “Through this partnership, we are 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.”

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and treatment-resistant disease that commonly develops due to exposure to asbestos and asbestiform fibres.

Early detection of the condition is considered difficult because of a 40-50 year latency period between first asbestos exposure and disease onset.

“Breath-based screening has the potential to have a substantial impact on a wide range of environment-driven disease.”

In addition, disease symptoms may not be specific, leading to poor prognosis and a median survival of nine to 12 months from diagnosis.

Early identification of people who are at risk of or have early stage malignant mesothelioma is expected to significantly improve prognosis via earlier treatment interventions.

Last month, Owlstone Medical partnered with Actelion Pharmaceuticals to develop a breath test for the early diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension (PH) and its subtypes.