Cancerous glucose metabolism in lung cancer-evidence from exhaled breath analysis

J Breath Res. 2016 Jun 7;10(2):026012. doi: 10.1088/1752-7155/10/2/026012.


Cancer cells prefer hyperglycolysis versus oxidative phosphorylation, even in the presence of oxygen. This phenomenon is used through the FDG-PET scans, and may affect the exhaled volatile signature. This study investigates the volatile signature in lung cancer (LC) before and after an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) to determine if tumor cells' hyperglycolysis would affect the volatile signature. Blood glucose levels and exhaled breath samples were analyzed before the OGTT, and 90 min after, in both LC patients and controls. The volatile signature was measured by proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS). Twenty-two LC patients (age 66.6 ± 12.7) with adenocarcinoma (n = 14), squamous (n = 6), small cell carcinoma (n = 2), and twenty-one controls (age 54.4 ± 13.7; 10 non-smokers and 11 smokers) were included. All LC patients showed a hyperglycolytic state in their FDG-PET scans. Both baseline and post OGTT volatile signatures discriminate between the groups. The OGTT has a minimal effect in LC (a decrease in m/z 54 by 39%, p v = 0.0499); whereas in the control group, five masses (m/z 64, 87,88, 142 and 161) changed by -13%, -49%, -40% and -29% and 46% respectively. To conclude, OGTT has a minimal effect on the VOC signature in LC patients, where a hyperglycolytic state already exists. In contrast, in the control group the OGTT has a profound effect in which induced hyperglycolysis significantly changed the VOC pattern. We hypothesized that a ceiling effect in cancerous patients is responsible for this discrepancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis


  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Glucose