Cancer breath testing: a patent review

Expert Opin Ther Pat. 2018 Mar;28(3):227-239. doi: 10.1080/13543776.2018.1423680. Epub 2018 Jan 6.


Introduction: Human breath can contain thousands of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile compounds that are related to metabolism and other biochemical processes. The presence of cancer cells can affect the identity and abundances of chemicals in breath when compared to those in healthy control subjects, which can be used to indicate the likelihood of a patient having cancer. Recently, the chemical analysis of exhaled breath from patients has been shown to be promising for diagnosing many different types of cancers, including lung, breast, colon, head, neck, and prostate, along with pre-cancerous conditions (dysplasia).

Areas covered: Here, we reviewed the sampling, analytical and data analysis methods reported in the recent patent literature related to cancer breath testing (2014-2017). In addition, the different types of cancer biomarkers that were disclosed are discussed.

Expert opinion: The major advantages of breath testing compared to conventional X-ray and imaging based methods includes simplicity of use, non-invasiveness, and the potential to detect cancer at a relatively early stage. Such methods are also suitable to perform population screening because of their non-invasiveness. However, the establishment of standard sampling, detection and quantification methods for breath testing is required before the methods can be employed for clinical diagnosis.

Keywords: Cancer; biomarker; breath; breath test; breathalyzer; mass spectrometry; sensors; volatile organic compounds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Breath Tests / instrumentation
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Patents as Topic
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Volatile Organic Compounds