Breath test could detect cancer, Pittsburgh native, Fulbright Scholar says

Breath test could detect cancer, Pittsburgh native, Fulbright Scholar says

Jeffrey Halpern
Jeffrey Halpern

In the future, Jeffrey Halpern believes catching cancer in its early stages could be as simple as breathing into a tube.

He’s so sure of it, in fact, that he plans to spend 20 months in Israel researching the procedure.

A Squirrel Hill native and post-doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Halpern, 31, is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, which will enable him to study cancer screening at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

He will be working with chemical engineering and nanotechnology professors there to develop an existing screening procedure, which involves electrochemical censors to detect later stages of cancer in patients.

Halpern and his mentors at the Technion hope to modify those censors to attract chemical biomarkers from early-stage cancer, which doctors could harvest by having patients take a breath test in their offices.

If successful, the procedure could not only detect early-stage cancer, but also help doctors determine what kind of cancer it is.

“I’m hoping to take it to the next level,” Halpern said. He added, “There is the potential of distinguishing between various types of cancer.”

A son of Bill and Robin Halpern, Jeffrey Halpern grew up in Squirrel Hill, and attended Colfax School, Reizenstein Middle School and Allderdice High School. He has a bachelor’s degree and doctorate from Case Western Reserve in chemical engineering.

He is in his second year of post-doctoral research at Case Western Reserve, funded by a training grant from the National Institutes of Health, working with Horst von Recum, a professor of biomedical engineering. Specifically, he has been evaluating and developing drug delivery systems that use molecular interactions to control the rate of release.

Halpern, who was awarded a Lady Davis Fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year, was one of 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals selected through the State Department and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board of the for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program this year.

He and his wife, Abigail, have a 2-year-old son, Raphael.

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at  

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