Advances in the Early Detection of Lung Cancer using Analysis of Volatile Organic Compounds: From Imaging to Sensors


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.37 million people died of lung cancer all around theworld in 2008, occupying the first place in all cancer-related deaths. However, this number might be decreasedif patients were detected earlier and treated appropriately. Unfortunately, traditional imaging techniques arenot sufficiently satisfactory for early detection of lung cancer because of limitations. As one alternative, breathvolatile organic compounds (VOCs) may reflect the biochemical status of the body and provide clues to somediseases including lung cancer at early stage. Early detection of lung cancer based on breath analysis is becomingmore and more valued because it is non-invasive, sensitive, inexpensive and simple. In this review article, weanalyze the limitations of traditional imaging techniques in the early detection of lung cancer, illustrate possiblemechanisms of the production of VOCs in cancerous cells, present evidence that supports the detection of suchdisease using breath analysis, and summarize the advances in the study of E-noses based on gas sensitive sensors.In conclusion, the analysis of breath VOCs is a better choice for the early detection of lung cancer compared toimaging techniques. We recommend a more comprehensive technique that integrates the analysis of VOCs andnon-VOCs in breath. In addition, VOCs in urine may also be a trend in research on the early detection of lungcancer.