A breathalyser test detecting the early signs of lung cancer is set to undergo clinical trials at 17 UK hospitals, with the aim of the technology being used in clinics by 2017.

The breathalyser test, developed by Cambridge-based Owlstone Medical, uses microchip sensor technology to identify the chemical markers of lung cancer, which could offer a cheaper and quicker means of diagnosing lung cancer.

As part of the clinical study, 3,000 patients who are due to undergo a biopsy for lung cancer, will give breath samples using the breathalyser device, allowing doctors to validate the chemical markers of lung cancer in patients’ breath against the results of the biopsies.

Breath testing is currently used to diagnose certain medical conditions but existing technology can be complex, time consuming and expensive.

According to Cancer Research, there were around 45,000 new cases of lung cancer in the UK in 2013 and it is the third most common cancer in the UK.

Gwen Kirby Dent, a senior clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Through our work with victims of misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis of cancer, we understand the importance of a prompt and accurate diagnosis.

“While this newly developed breathalyser test is yet to undergo clinical testing, any medical development that may lead to earlier detection of cancer is a vital progression that could potentially save lives through more efficient diagnoses of cancer.”