Page URL:

Prototype lung cancer breath test checks for gene mutations

15 September 2014
Appeared in BioNews 771

Scientists have shown that minimal genetic changes can be detected in vapour containing cells engineered to replicate early stage lung cancer. The findings could potentially be used to develop a breath test for lung cancer that is able to distinguish between different gene mutations.

Certain compounds detectable in the breath are known to be potential biomarkers for cancer, but it was not known is whether they reflected specific mutations. To study this, researchers from the University of Liverpool and the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology engineered bronchial airway cells to replicate early lung cancer, before analysing the vapour that had collected in the container used to grow them.

The researchers found that it was possible to distinguish between two different types of gene mutation that were present in the cells.

'These findings tell us that it's theoretically possible to develop a test that could diagnose early lung cancer in the breath of patients', said Dr Mike Davies at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme, who led the research.

The test could be used in early diagnostics to identify high-risk patients, explained the researchers. 'It could also be used to help match patients to the right treatment by providing doctors with a snapshot of the genetic makeup of their individual tumour', Dr Davies added.

Dr Davies acknowledged that further research is needed before the study's findings could start to be put into practice, saying, 'first we need to do further tests with the breath of real patients to see whether this method can accurately diagnose genetic changes in growing lung tumours'.

Nell Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: 'These early results raise the prospect of a cheap, effective test to diagnose lung cancer. We are still a way off from the large scale trials, however, that is necessary before this technique could be used widely'.

Lung cancer leads to more deaths than any other cancer, causing 35,000 deaths in the UK in 2012. Barrie explained that when diagnosed at the earliest stage around 70 percent of patients will survive for a year or more, compared to just 14 percent who are diagnosed at its most advanced stage.

Meanwhile, Italian researchers have suggested that measuring the temperature of the breath could help diagnose lung cancer. Higher breath temperature is associated with lung cancer, they explain, suggesting the presence of inflammation in the airways.

Breath tests 'to diagnose lung cancer' in major step in fight against killer disease
Mirror |  10 September 2014
Scientists devise breath test for lung cancer
BBC News |  10 September 2014
Step towards breath test for lung cancer
University of Liverpool (press release) |  9 September 2014
Unique volatolomic signatures of TP53 and KRAS in lung cells
British Journal of Cancer |  9 September 2014
15 June 2015 - by Dr Hannah Somers 
Two US studies have identified specific genetic mutations in gliomas which correlate with how the tumours will behave and respond to treatment...
9 June 2014 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
Smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer if they carry a defective version of a gene associated with breast cancer, a study has found...
4 November 2013 - by Dr Sarah Spain 
Two recent studies have shown how treatments for lung cancer can be tailored to a tumour's genetic make-up, which may ultimately improve existing treatments or even help to identify new ones...
20 May 2013 - by Dr James Heather 
The US medicines regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, has approved a genetic test to help doctors select suitable lung cancer patients to be treated with the drug erlotinib...
14 January 2013 - by Emma Stoye 
The Department of Health has launched an advertisement campaign aiming to highlight the unseen damage caused by smoking...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.