Electronic Nose May Sniff Out Lung Cancer
New Test May Detect Lung Cancer in Breath
WebMD News Archive
June 1, 2005 -- Detecting lung cancer soon may be as easy as taking a
A new study shows that an experimental "electronic nose" can detect
lung cancer in the exhaled breath of people with the disease.
Researchers say the device detects unique "smellprints" found in the
exhaled breath of people with lung cancer and may one day be used to conduct
widespread screening for the deadly disease.
Lung cancer is the top cancer killer for both men and women in the U.S.
According to the American Cancer Society, more people die of lung cancer than
colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.
Early detection and treatment is critical to preventing or delaying death
due to the disease. However, there are no general screening guidelines to
detect lung cancer at its earliest stages in asymptomatic people. When lung
cancer is found early, it is often because of tests that were being done for
New Way to Detect Lung Cancer
"Based on prior work, we hypothesized that an 'electronic nose' would
detect lung cancer on the basis of complex 'smellprints' of numerous volatile
organic compounds in exhaled breath from individuals with lung cancer,"
says researcher Serpil C. Erzurum, MD, of The Cleveland Clinic, in a news
"Like the human nose, its electronic counterpart responds in concert to
a given odor to generate a pattern or 'smellprint,' which is analyzed, compared
with stored patterns and recognized," says Erzurum.
In the study, which appears in the June issue of the American Journal of
Respiratory Care and Critical Care Medicine, researchers measured the
exhaled breath of 14 people with lung cancer and 45 healthy individuals to
develop the electronic nose's screening capability.
Then they tested the device's ability to detect lung cancer in another group
of 14 people with lung cancer and 62 people without the disease.
Of the 14 lung cancer patients, 10 had a positive breath test and four had a
negative result. Among the noncancer patients, 57 had a negative lung cancer
breath test and five had a positive.
Researchers say that in this group of people with a rate of lung cancer of
18%, the test was 92% accurate in confirming those people that did not have
lung cancer and 66% accurate in detecting those with lung cancer.
They say these results prove the feasibility of such an "electronic
nose" test for lung cancer, but further research is needed to refine and
develop effective strategies for using such a test.