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UK Biotech Partners with Chinese Hospital to Detect Lung Cancer Early

UK Biotech Partners with Chinese Hospital to Detect Lung Cancer Early

Breath tests are an attractive screening tool for lung cancer but are still being investigated for its safety and efficacy. Owlstone Medical and Renji Hospital will launch the first clinical trial evaluating the Breath Biopsy tool for the early detection of lung cancer. Image courtesy of Sarah Jeffery.

It might soon be possible to detect and prevent thousands of lung cancers in China, thanks to a partnership between Owlstone Medical and Renji Hospital in Shanghai.

The two groups announced that they have partnered up to launch a clinical trial to test Owlstone Medical’s “Breath Biopsy” tool for the early detection of lung cancer. This partnership is a first for both the UK and Chinese groups.


“Expansion into China through the establishment of an in-country Breath Biopsy lab and formation of high value partnerships is an important part of Owlstone Medical’s strategy, significantly as access to the large healthcare networks present has the potential to substantially accelerate clinical trials,” said Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO of Owlstone Medical in a press release.

There were nearly 2.1 million new cases of lung cancer around the world in 2018, and is currently the leading cause of cancer death. Lung cancer incidence and mortality is exceptionally high in China, owing to factors like cigarette smoking and poor air quality. Moreover, lung cancer mortality is expected to rise 40 percent between 2015 and 2030.

While cancer screening is available in China, it is not nationwide. This represents a significant barrier for those living in rural areas who cannot access screening facilities or treatment centers.

Owlstone Medical plans to set up a Breath Biopsy laboratory in China, equipped with “breath collection stations, analytical instrumentation and the procedures and training” for personnel. The proprietary Breath Biopsy device interrogates volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are byproducts of biochemical reactions. Since cancer leads to changes in cellular metabolism, the device should be able to distinguish the breath of a cancer patient from a non-cancer patient.

“Breath-based diagnostics have the potential to revolutionize the way that this challenge is approached and we are very pleased to be partnering with Owlstone Medical to establish the first Breath Biopsy lab outside of the UK,” said Dr. Li-Wei Wang, director of oncology at Renji Hospital and clinical trial leader. Dr. Wang adds that innovative screening tools for lung cancer are needed to support patients, reduce healthcare costs and minimize disease burden.

Owlstone Medical has already collaborated with Cancer Research UK and others to test the Breath Biopsy tool in the detection of various solid tumors.

Similarly, the new partnership between Owlstone Medical and Renji Hospital will also drive research in other disease areas.