Pilot study: volatile organic compounds as a diagnostic marker for head and neck tumors

Head Neck. 2008 Jun;30(6):743-9. doi: 10.1002/hed.20779.


Background: In the last decade, the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOC) has undergone a rapid development. In this pilot study, patients with HNSCC were tested with a proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometry in order to establish a minimal invasive screening method.

Methods: Overall in a period of 2 years, 22 carcinoma patients were recruited for the study. All patients had a newly diagnosed histologically secured squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract. These results were statistically compared with 3 control groups: healthy controls, high-risk, and posttherapy patients.

Results: Two hundred nine different masses were measured; 188 of these were evaluated. The statistical workup of the 4 study groups produced 42 different masses, which showed a statistically significant difference from the carcinoma group compared with the control groups.

Conclusion: A screening method for HNSCC using VOC seems to be possible, but further investigation is necessary.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Volatilization


  • Biomarkers
  • Organic Chemicals