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Hitachi harnessing roundworms to sniff out cancer

TOKYO -- Hitachi and Kyushu University plan to develop a low-cost test that detects cancer by exploiting how roundworms react to the urine of people with the disease.

     Roundworms measure about 1mm long and are attracted to the smell of cancer patients' urine.

     Working with researchers from the university, Hitachi hopes to commercialize a device for early-stage cancer in 2018 at the soonest. The movements of 100 or so roundworms will be analyzed to determine whether a patient has cancer. The researchers reported 90%-plus accuracy in a trial using more than 300 known cancer patients and healthy individuals.

     Each test will take about an hour and is expected to cost about 100 yen (83 cents). Hitachi big-data technologies will be used for image analysis. Roundworms are cheap because they can be caught in the soil and other places across the world, and they are easy to breed.

     The new test will not distinguish between different types of cancer, so a positive result would necessitate conventional testing. The plan is to release the product in Japan first and emerging markets later.


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