When we hear the words "breath analysis," most of us may think of an instrument used to assess alcohol intoxication, but this is not the same instrument used for lung cancer analysis. Although the concept is similar, the chemical analysis is obviously different.
Researchers from Colorado and Israel recently published a pilot study in the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer's Journal of Thoracic Oncology. The study showed that breath testing could be used to distinguish between malignant and benign pulmonary nodules.
The study assessed 74 patients who were under investigation for lung nodules. Exhaled breath was collected from each patient, and the exhaled volatile organic compounds were analyzed using gas chromatography with mass spectrometry. These patients also underwent the necessary lung procedures to obtain a definitive diagnosis, such as a bronchoscopy, wedge resection or lobectomy.
The technique accurately identified which pulmonary nodules were malignant and which were benign. It also correctly identified which tumors were adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma per chemical nanoarray analysis. The test even distinguished between early and late-stage diseases.
This type of test may help to prevent patients from undergoing unnecessary invasive procedures only to find out that their lung nodules are benign. This test may also serve as a secondary screening tool for patients found to have pulmonary nodules after CT screening.
The researchers recommend using a larger cohort to validate results, because this breath test could significantly reduce unnecessary investigation and lower the risk of procedure-related morbidity and costs. In addition, the authors say it could facilitate faster therapeutic intervention, replacing time-consuming clinical followups that would eventually lead to the same intervention.
If approved, do you feel this would be an efficient and reliable alternative to CT scanning?