Last Updated: 2007-09-12 15:01:02 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Exhaled volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can give much information about the body, and lung cancer-associated VOCs may be of use in diagnosis, according to Chinese researchers.

As they report in the August 15th issue of Cancer, Dr. Ping Wang of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou and colleagues used solid-phase microextraction combined with gas chromatography to identify VOCs in cell cultures, including different kinds of lung cancer, as well as epithelial and other types of cells.

The team identified four VOCs that were found in all of the lung cancer culture media. These, they point out, "are the metabolic products of lung cancer cells and can be viewed as markers of lung cancer."

The investigators went on to do further work with lung cancer tissues and breath samples from 29 lung cancer patients, 7 with chronic bronchitis and 13 healthy controls.

The researchers found 11 VOCs in the lung cancer patients that "were rarely detected in breath samples from healthy persons."

However, the differences between VOCs from cultures and those from patients, they observe, "demonstrated the complexity of the transmission mechanism."

Dr. Wang told Reuters Health that there is little more to report, as "our work is still developing and our research is improving."

While further research is needed, the team concludes that the results so far provide "the basis for the noninvasive detection and the breath diagnosis of lung cancer using an electronic nose."

Cancer 2007;110:835-844.