Detecting early lung cancer could be as easy as blowing in a 'breathalyzer'

The 'breathalyzer' can detect carbonyl compounds, which are predictive of lung cancer, in a patient's breath.

By Ananth Baliga

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Jan. 29 (UPI) -- 'Breathalyzer' test can detect lung cancer-specific compounds, potentially saving patients from having to undergo invasive biopsies.

Researchers at the University of Louisville examined patients with lung lesions, using a silicone microprocessor and mass spectrometer, and tested their exhaled breath for the presence of volatile organic compounds known as carbonyls. They then matched these findings with clinical and other pathological tests.


Their findings were presented at the 50th Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

“Although the data are preliminary, we found that patients with an elevation of three or four cancer-specific carbonyl compounds was predictive of lung cancer in 95 percent of patients with a pulmonary nodule or mass,” said Michael Bousamra, associate professor at the university.

The carbonyl compounds used in the study are called ketones and aldehydes and are found in low concentrations in the human body. The researchers found that high carbonyl concentrations returned to normal after surgery removed a malignant nodule.

Bousamra believes that this simple breath test will save patients the trouble of undergoing invasive biopsies and simplifying the process of detecting early lung cancers.


“The novelty of this approach includes the simplicity of sample collection and ease for the patient,” Bousamra said.

[University of Loiusville] [The Society of Thoracic Surgeons]

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