Breath analysis could help diagnose lung cancer: Study

Updated: Sep 17, 2012, 16:55 PM IST

Washington: Breath testing could be used to discriminate between benign and malignant pulmonary nodules, which can help in efficient diagnosis of lung cancer, a new study has claimed.

The study looked at 74 patients who were under investigation for pulmonary nodules and attended a referral clinic in Colorado between March 2009 and May 2010.

Researchers collected exhaled breath from each patient, analysing the exhaled volatile organic compounds using gas chromatography with mass spectrometry and information from chemical nanoarrays.

The patients also underwent a bronchoscopy, wedge resection or lobectomy, whichever was required for final diagnosis.

Nodules that either regressed or remained stable over a 24-month period were considered benign.

The two techniques accurately identified that 53 pulmonary nodules were malignant and 19 were benign.

Furthermore, the nanoarrays method discriminated between adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma and between early versus advanced disease.

This kind of testing could help solve some of the problems computed tomography screening has created.

While low-dose CT screening has reduced the mortality rate by 20 per cent, many people have to undergo invasive procedures only to find out their pulmonary nodules are not cancerous.

The false positive rate is 96 per cent. This testing could serve as a secondary screener for patients who were found to have pulmonary nodules after CT screening.

"The reported breath test in this study could have significant impact on reducing unnecessary investigation and reducing the risk of procedure-related morbidity and costs. In addition, it could facilitate faster therapeutic intervention, replacing time-consuming clinical follow-up that would eventually lead to the same intervention," the authors said in a statement.

The study was published in the Journal of `Thoracic Oncology`.