Exploring the use of breath tests to detect breast cancers

By: Breathe BioMedical, in conversation with Dr. Farah Naz and Donna Fairweather RN of Horizon Health Network

Dr. Farah Naz and Donna Fairweather RN of New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network completed a preliminary analysis for a study with Breathe BioMedical’s technology at the Saint John Regional Hospital, demonstrating our ability to detect breast cancer in the breath with 81.4 per cent accuracy.

The study involved 70 New Brunswick participants, 38 of whom were breast cancer patients. The study continues to recruit participants and volunteers, and is expected to be complete by 2023.

We sat down with Dr. Naz and Donna to learn more about their work with breast cancer patients, and how our technology has impacted their work. 

What is your area of interest for research?

Dr. Naz: “We do research for various cancer sites. My main interest is the breast, brain, head and neck. Research is very important and interesting to me. We have been doing many different studies. It is always good to participate in studies, so we know what is out there for patients.”

Donna: “Research helps to improve our patient care and standard of care practices. It is very exciting to be involved with research for Breathe BioMedical’s new technology.”

What inspired you to work in this area?

Dr. Naz: “If we can do a little or a lot for patients, it always counts. From the research, new techniques or treatments can help a patient. It’s inspiring and rewarding when patients come back to us. Sometimes we do not have the standard treatment so we look for studies and trials – which is both challenging and interesting. We are always changing and thinking of what we can do for our patients. We can’t always do the same treatment for all patients.”

Donna: “I worked in oncology as a student 34 years ago and have never left the department. I have met some of the most amazing patients, nurses and physicians in oncology, and they inspire me to keep doing what I do.”

What barriers do your patients face when seeking diagnosis?

Dr. Naz: “On many occasions our patients face long wait times to access different tests, and wait for OR dates to name a few.”

Donna: “We do have patients say they find a lump and it’s hard for them to see their physician right away. Unfortunately, some of our patients don’t have a family doctor and with the pandemic there were longer wait times to get a mammogram.”

What is your current project with Breathe BioMedical?

Dr. Naz: “With Breathe BioMedical’s technology, we demonstrated 81.4 per cent accuracy in detecting breast cancer in the breath in the initial analysis. As a physician, we offered the breath test study to our patients, and most of our patients said yes and wanted to participate.”

Donna: “Working with Breathe BioMedical’s technology has been a team effort. The physicians present the study. The nurses in the clinic find space for me to work with the patients taking the breath test. It is a team effort and we all contribute to it.”

Donna: “Everyone is always excited to see the breath sampler itself. The fact that the technology is being developed in Moncton is so exciting. We are grateful how close to home this technology is, and participants are always impressed by how the breath sampler works.”  

What made you want to be involved with Breathe BioMedical?

Dr. Naz: “When I was approached with Breathe BioMedical’s breath analytic technology for breast cancer, I always knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

What has your experience with Breathe BioMedical technology been like?

Dr. Naz: “Whenever we have any questions with the technology, the Breathe BioMedical team has always been there to help, and they are very accessible.”

Donna: “The breath sampler itself is very user friendly and easy to use. The Breathe BioMedical team is great to make improvements for patient comfort when necessary. The team is always eager to help and solve problems. It’s an amazing team to work with, and everyone has always been a phone call away and easy to reach.”

What are some of the limitations with screening tools?

Dr. Naz: “Mammograms can be an issue for people with dense breast tissue, so we need another screening tool. Breathe BioMedical’s technology has the potential to be very helpful for us. We are interested to see what comes out from this study, and it’s potential use alongside the mammogram.”

Donna: “Dense breast tissue makes it difficult for radiologists to see cancer on a mammogram. We hear from patients that they know they have dense breasts. We are excited and inspired that a lot of these women could use a simple non-invasive breath test alongside the current screening in the future.”

In your experience, what do you think the future of breath analytics could look like for the world?

Dr. Naz: “I can see that this breath analytic technology could be part of screening along with the mammogram. I find the technology looks promising.”

Donna: “I could definitely see breath analytic technology enhancing our current methods.”

In what ways has Breathe BioMedical’s technology impacted your patients and their experience with the health system?

Dr. Naz: “Our patients have had a positive experience with Breathe BioMedical’s technology. Patients have been interested in using the technology, and they are thankful they are having the opportunity to do so.”

Donna: “Our patients are very willing and often thankful to participate. They are just excited to be part of what could potentially be new screening technology that will help them and others down the road.”

Thank you to our clinical partners

Dr. Naz and Donna are valued clinical partners of Breathe BioMedical, and champions of our technology. Our work would not be possible without them. Thank you to our amazing partners on the frontlines who help get us closer to commercializing a breath test that will save lives.