Researchers at HIROTSU BIO SCIENCE and Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, are exploring the potential of nematodes to be used in early cancer detection. This could save the lives of many by stopping cancer in the early stages. Dr Takaaki Hirotsu is the CEO of HIROTSU BIO SCIENCE, a company that conducts biological diagnostics research, which he opened in 2016 to facilitate early cancer detection. He has focused his research on the olfactory sense of Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode worm. Dr Hideshi Ishii is a clinical-oriented cancer researcher based at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan. Together they are seeking to harness the power of nematode worms in cancer detection. In 2015, Hirotsu announced his discovery that C. elegans had an ability to detect the odours of cancerous cells. "In this research, I found that the nematode displayed attractive chemotaxis towards human cancer cell secretions, cancer tissues and urine from cancer patients but avoided control urine," he explains. Not long after this, he established HIROTSU BIO SCIENCE, where he collaborates with hospitals and cancer research institutions nationwide to conduct clinical trials for the novel cancer screening method. Hirotsu has developed a highly accurate cancer screening test using scent detection of C. elegans. "The Nematode Scent Detection Test (N-NOSE) uses the nematode to provide a novel and highly accurate cancer detection system that is economical, painless, rapid and convenient," highlights Hirotsu. "When we tested the performance of the N-NOSE we found it to have a sensitivity of 95.8 per cent, which is far higher than other existing tumour markers," he continues. The N-NOSE was able to diagnose various cancer types at the early stage. Both Hirotsu and Ishii hope it might provide a new strategy to detect and study disease-associated scents. In their latest work, the researchers have developed a method called N-NOSE, which they hope will become the predominant first-stage screening tool in Japan and abroad. The test is also suitable for follow-up examination after cancer as it uses urine, meaning that the patient doesn?t suffer any pain or discomfort. "In collaboration with Osaka University, we used a pancreatic cancer model mouse to elucidate the mechanism of pancreatic cancer," says Hirotsu. "It was shown that N-NOSE is also effective in the mouse model. Following, clues to elucidate the mechanism of N-NOSE and carcinogenesis were obtained through the mouse model.