An impressive new study is suggesting a simple breath analysis can accurately predict whether lung cancer patients will positively respond to novel immunotherapy treatments. Unlike current methods, which involve studying tissue samples, the new “eNose” device can offer diagnostic advice in less than 60 seconds.
“The introduction of immunotherapy has dramatically improved the treatment of advanced stage non–small cell lung cancer but unfortunately it is only effective in a subset of patients, which was about 20 percent when we started the study,” explains Michel van den Heuvel, describing the origins of the research.
Underpinning this new research was the frustrating lack of consistency in identifying which patients will best respond to new immunotherapy treatments, called checkpoint inhibitors. The only method currently available to clinicians is testing tissue samples for a particular protein targeted by the treatment. This is time-consuming, invasive, and slows down the entire diagnostic process.
The new study utilized an electronic nose device called the SpiroNose. This technology can effectively measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath. The vast majority of our breath comprises nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water, but about one percent is composed of VOCs, and these VOCs can act as effective biomarkers to a number of different metabolic processes.