Op-Ed: When wife and mother Kate Gross, 34, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2012 her husband Billy Boyle turned attention to creating a quick, accurate and non-invasive method of detecting cancer in its early stages.
Mr Boyle's cancer breathalyser is being rolled out in the UK beginning with a £1m clinical trial at two British hospitals summer 2015.
The cost may sound high but if the cancer breathalyser proves an effective tool in early diagnosis it could save the NHS £245m and save 10,000 lives.
If lung cancer is detected in its early stages recovery rates are good but a late diagnosis can cut the chance of survival from 75% to 5%.
Mr Boyle founded the LuCID (lung cancer indicator detection) project by Owlstone using technology similar to equipment already in use at airports. When a patient blows into the cancer breathalyser the machine analyses the chemicals present in a person's breath. If the machine indicates cancer further tests will follow; if no cancer is detected the person is given the all clear on cancer.
This means the breathalyser must be 100% accurate. "Owlstone's technology can be applied to other diseases too, including bowel cancer, tuberculosis and asthma" reports Sky News Tuesday.
Kate Gross was a graduate who became a high-flying civil servant, advising British prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Sadly Kate's cancer was diagnosed late and she died Christmas Day 2014 aged just 36. She is survived by Billy and their two children.
Billy sums up the reason for working on this ground-breaking technology this way "You develop technologies for a reason. "Sometimes it's for monetary gain. Other times it's to make a difference.
And I think we have a real opportunity to try and improve the lives of patients."
Mr Boyle told Sky News: "The great thing is the technology exists today. "We already have the microchip, we're working on small handheld devices in (a) GP's office. "It's important to get the clinical evidence first. But we think we can have systems available, proven, within the next two years.
NHS Choices lists the symptoms of lung cancer as:
a cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks