Analysis of specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may provide new diagnostic tools for lung cancer patients, according to an expert at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Dr. Nir Peled, Fulbright Scholar at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, that these compounds have been found to be present in the breath of lung cancer patients in recent studies.
The origins of these VOCs are still up for debate, and it is unknown if they emerge from the tumour itself, its microenvironment or if they are produced by the human as a reaction to the tumour.
With a view to answering this question, the researchers compared non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and examined their production of VOCs.
According to the study report, 10 adenocarcinoma (AC) and two squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cell lines were grown in standard conditions, and compared to control.
Gas-chromatography mass spectrometry was used to examine the chemical nature of the cancerous VOCs, and an electrical nose device detected the difference between cancerous cells and the samples.
During the study, 350 to 400 different VOCs were identified in either tumor cells or controls.
The researchers found 120 of the compounds to appear in all tumour and control cells with a high confidence interval (>89 percent).
Of those 120 compounds, five were found to be present in all tumour cells but not in the control group, and three of those were present specifically in the exhaled breath of NSCLC patients.
According to the researchers, the three compounds that were present in exhaled breath were found in more than 90 percent of NSCLC patients.
Based on this finding, the researchers came to the conclusion that VOCs transfer to the breath of patients via a metabolic pathway present in the tumour cells.
"Now that we have a better understanding of the origin of these compounds and have pinpointed their presence with a large degree of accuracy, we hope to use this information to develop a test that examines the exhaled breath of patients for early detection of lung cancer," says Dr. Nir Peled.
"This research is a promising step toward an earlier, more accurate and cost-effective diagnosis for lung cancer patients," the researcher added.
Dr. Peled made a presentation on the study on Sunday at The Moscone Center in California.