New research has discovered that a device they call an "electronic nose" can identify patients with lung cancer by detecting specific compounds in their breath.
The electronic nose is an implement that analyzes volatile organic compounds, and such a device, which is commonly used in the food industry and in other commercial applications, relies on chemical vapor sensors that are able to detect subtle differences in odorant molecules.
In the study Dr. Serpil C. Erzurum, from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, and colleagues first "trained" the device by having it analyze the breath of 14 patients with lung cancer and 45 healthy controls and the exercise showed that there were indeed distinct properties to the breath of lung cancer patients.
This data from the learning process was then applied to an investigation of a second group of 76 subjects - 14 with and 62 without lung cancer. The nose correctly identified 71 percent of the people with lung cancer and 92 percent of those that did not have the condition.
The authors conclude that the study demonstrates the feasibility of clinical monitoring of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath using a multisensor electronic nose, a relatively convenient and noninvasive test in patients with suspected lung cancer.
The study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.