Exhaled volatile organic compounds in patients with non-small cell lung cancer: Cross sectional and nested short-term follow-up study

Diana Poli, Paolo Carbognani, Massimo Corradi, Matteo Goldoni, Olga Acampa, Bruno Balbi, Luca Bianchi, Michele Rusca, Antonio Mutti

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Background: Non-invasive diagnostic strategies aimed at identifying biomarkers of lung cancer are of great interest for early cancer detection. The aim of this study was to set up a new method for identifying and quantifying volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled air of patients with non-small cells lung cancer (NSCLC), by comparing the levels with those obtained from healthy smokers and non-smokers, and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The VOC collection and analyses were repeated three weeks after the NSCLC patients underwent lung surgery. Methods: The subjects' breath was collected in a Teflon® bulb that traps the last portion of single slow vital capacity. The 13 VOCs selected for this study were concentrated using a solid phase microextraction technique and subsequently analysed by means of gas cromatography/mass spectrometry. Results: The levels of the selected VOCs ranged from 10-12 M for styrene to 10-9 M for isoprene. None of VOCs alone discriminated the study groups, and so it was not possible to identify one single chemical compound as a specific lung cancer biomarker. However, multinomial logistic regression analysis showed that VOC profile can correctly classify about 80 % of cases. Only isoprene and decane levels significantly decreased after surgery. Conclusion: As the combination of the 13 VOCs allowed the correct classification of the cases into groups, together with conventional diagnostic approaches, VOC analysis could be used as a complementary test for the early diagnosis of lung cancer. Its possible use in the follow-up of operated patients cannot be recommended on the basis of the results of our short-term nested study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number71
JournalRespiratory Research
Publication statusPublished - Jul 14 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Medicine(all)


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