Breath Tests May Help with Early Meso Diagnosis
A study conducted in Belgium demonstrates that two different breath analysis tests may be useful in diagnosing deadly asbestos-caused mesothelioma, a cancer that is historically difficult to diagnosis and often not caught until it reaches its late stages.
In a multi-center study that was conducted at several Belgian universities as well as the University of Amsterdam, two tests were able to detect mesothelioma patients with an amazing degree of accuracy, the authors report.
The two tests are known as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and eNose and they fall into the category of “breathomics” – a method by which breathing tests can pick up some of the thousands of organic compounds that come from the chemical processes that take place in the human body.
By detecting certain compounds associated with mesothelioma via these tests, the disease can be identified.
The tests were used to analyze 64 test subjects: 16 healthy individuals, 14 with malignant pleural mesothelioma, 15 with other asbestos-related diseases, and 19 that had been exposed to asbestos but had not been diagnosed with any related diseases.
Exhaled breath samples from all the test subjects were analyzed using the two breathomics tests so that researchers could check for the presence of certain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) associated with mesothelioma.
When used together, the authors of the study note that the tests were highly effective in identifying the possible presence of mesothelioma and to distinguish mesothelioma patients from those with other illnesses or individuals who had simply been exposed to asbestos.
“Using GC-MS, asbestos-exposed individuals were discriminated from malignant pleural mesothelioma patients with 97% accuracy, with diethyl ether, limonene, nonanal, methylcyclopentane and cyclohexane as important VOCs,” study author Kevin Lamote of Ghent University writes in the journal Oncotarget. “This was validated by eNose analysis.”
“In addition, GC-MS was 94% accurate at discriminating both asbestos-exposed people and people with other asbestos-related diseases from those who had been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The eNose could do so with 74% accuracy,” the study authors added.
“GC-MS accurately identified pleural mesothelioma 100% of the time and was able to rule out people who did not have pleural mesothelioma in 91% of cases. eNose was slightly less accurate with a sensitivity of 82% and a specificity of 55%.”
The results seem impressive. Indeed, such tests could assist in the earlier detection of the disease, researchers stress, which could mean a better prognosis and longer life span for anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma.
These tests are also non-invasive and are inexpensive to administer.
However, researchers point out that the technology of breathomics isn’t perfect yet. Until more study is completed, the authors note that confusion may result as VOCs may be similar in several types of cancer and, hence, may be difficult to tell apart with just a breath test or two for diagnosis.
Other, more-invasive testing will still be necessary until the technology is perfected.