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New Breath Test to Identify Head and Neck Cancer

Wed, May 11, 2011

Oral Cancer News

Source: British Journal of Cancer

M Hakim, S Billan, U Tisch, G Peng, I Dvrokind, O Marom, R Abdah-Bortnyak, A Kuten and H Haick



Head-and-neck cancer (HNC) is the eighth most common malignancy worldwide. It is often diagnosed late due to a lack of screening methods and overall cure is achieved in <50% of patients. Head-and-neck cancer sufferers often develop a second primary tumour that can affect the entire aero-digestive tract, mostly HNC or lung cancer (LC), making lifelong follow-up necessary.


Alveolar breath was collected from 87 volunteers (HNC and LC patients and healthy controls) in a cross-sectional clinical trial. The discriminative power of a tailor-made Nanoscale Artificial Nose (NA-NOSE) based on an array of five gold nanoparticle sensors was tested, using 62 breath samples. The NA-NOSE signals were analysed to detect statistically significant differences between the sub-populations using (i) principal component analysis with ANOVA and Student’s t-test and (ii) support vector machines and cross-validation. The identification of NA-NOSE patterns was supported by comparative analysis of the chemical composition of the breath through gas chromatography in conjunction with mass spectrometry (GC–MS), using 40 breath samples.


The NA-NOSE could clearly distinguish between (i) HNC patients and healthy controls, (ii) LC patients and healthy controls, and (iii) HNC and LC patients. The GC–MS analysis showed statistically significant differences in the chemical composition of the breath of the three groups.


The presented results could lead to the development of a cost-effective, fast, and reliable method for the differential diagnosis of HNC that is based on breath testing with an NA-NOSE, with a future potential as screening tool.


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