Background: The exhaled breath of lung cancer patients contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that differ from those in healthy individuals. These VOCs can be detected with methods such as ion mobility spectrometry (IMS); their origin remains unknown.
Methods: In 19 patients with lung cancer, exhaled breath was aspirated via the working channel of a flexible bronchoscope from both the tumor-bearing and the opposite lung and analyzed with IMS.
Results: IMS measurement through the working channel of a bronchoscope was feasible and safe. In comparison to the opposite lung, we found two peaks that were significantly higher and three peaks that were significantly lower on the IMS of the tumor-bearing site. VOCs differ in concentration depending on the histologic subtype.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that VOCs in lung cancer patients are produced locally in or around the tumor, and it is most likely that these VOCs represent underlying metabolic processes of the tumor.