US Pharm. 2014;39(2):35.

According to a study presented at the 50th annual meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, specific compounds found in exhaled breath may help diagnose early-stage lung cancer.

Michael Bousamra, MD, and researchers from the University of Louisville in Kentucky examined patients with suspicious lung lesions. The researchers tested exhaled breath for the presence and levels of specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs; aldehydes and ketones, collectively called carbonyls) in patients with suspected lung cancer that was detected on CT scans. The researchers then matched their findings with pathologic and clinical results.

“Although the data are preliminary, we found that patients with an elevation of three or four cancer-specific carbonyl compounds was predictive of lung cancer in 95% of patients with a pulmonary nodule or mass,” said Dr. Bousamra. “Conversely, the absence of elevated VOC levels was predictive of a benign mass in 80% of patients.”