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Breath Analysis by Mass Spectrometry: A New Tool for Breast Cancer Detection?

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Breath analysis has received attention as a noninvasive diagnostic tool with increasing research into its potential usefulness. We are investigating the utility of the analysis of breath volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as an effective modality for breast cancer (BC) detection and monitoring by collecting breath samples with a simple portable device to determine whether BC patients have breath VOCs distinct from those in healthy volunteers. We prospectively enrolled 20 healthy volunteers and 20 newly diagnosed stage II-IV BC patients. The study subjects deeply exhaled into a commercially available Teflon/valved breath sampler equipped with a rapid passive diffusive sampler five times at 5-minute intervals trapping alveolar breath VOCs. The exhaled breath samples were analyzed by thermal desorption/gas chromatography/mass spectrometry monitoring 383 VOCs in the breath of both populations. Our results indicate that aggregate low-dimensional summaries and compound quantities result in specific patterns that can confirm BC. We found a definite clustering of the presence of BC from cancer-free points. Overall sensitivity was 72 per cent and specificity was 64 per cent resulting in a correct classification rate of approximately 77 per cent. Our data show promising evidence that BC patients can be differentiated from healthy volunteers through distinct breath VOCs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta, Georgia; the 2: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia; and the 3: University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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