Identification of volatile lung cancer markers by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry: comparison with discrimination by canines

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2012 Jul;404(1):141-6. doi: 10.1007/s00216-012-6102-8. Epub 2012 Jun 3.


In this work, a chromatographic method for identification of volatile organic compounds was compared with canine recognition. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC-TOF MS) were used for determination of concentrations of trace gases present in human breath. The technique enables rapid determination of compounds in human breath, at the parts per billion level. Linear correlations were from 0.83-234.05 ppb, the limit of detection was the range 0.31-0.75 ppb, and precision, expressed as relative standard deviation (RSD), was less than 10.00 %. Moreover, trained dogs are able to discriminate breath samples of patients with diagnosed cancer. We found a positive correlation between dog indications and the ethyl acetate and 2-pentanone content of breath (r = 0.85 and r = 0.97, respectively). The methods presented for detection of lung cancer markers in exhaled air could be used as a potential non-invasive tool for screening. In addition, the canine method is relatively simple and inexpensive in comparison with chromatography.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / chemistry*
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Species Specificity
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / chemistry*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Volatile Organic Compounds