Breath Test Shows Potential for Detecting Colorectal Cancer

Accuracy of more than 75 percent for pattern of 15 volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from breath samples is able to distinguish healthy patients from those with colorectal cancer with more than 75 percent accuracy, according to a study published in the January issue of the British Journal of Surgery.

To examine whether patients with colorectal cancer have a specific VOC pattern, Donato F. Altomare, M.D., from the University 'Aldo Moro' of Bari in Italy, and colleagues used thermal-desorber gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze the VOC profile of exhaled breath from 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy controls in a trial phase. Patterns were further evaluated in a validation phase involving 25 blinded samples.

Using a probabilistic neural network applied to a pattern of 15 compounds, the researchers were able to discriminate between patients with colorectal cancer and healthy controls with a sensitivity of 86 percent, a specificity of 83 percent, and an accuracy of 85 percent. The accuracy of analysis was validated in the additional sample of 25 patients, correctly identifying 19 patients, for an overall accuracy of 76 percent.

"Breath VOC analysis appears to have potential clinical application in colorectal cancer screening, although further studies are required to confirm its reliability in heterogeneous clinical settings," the authors write.

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