Marc P. van der Schee, MSc; Lisette N. Venekamp, MD; Peter W.A. Kunst, MD, PhD
Potential Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.
van der Schee MP, Venekamp LN, Kunst PW. The Scent of Cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153:767. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-11-201012070-00022
Download citation file:
Published: Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(11):767.
TO THE EDITOR:
We strongly support the notion by Steensma (1) that the analytic ability of noses is vastly underrated. The author rightfully asks: What does cancer actually smell like? Smell, either as a biological sense or chemical analytic process, is based on pattern recognition of complex mixtures of volatile organic compounds (2). In exhaled breath, these volatile compounds are products of both physiologic and pathologic metabolic pathways. As such, a scent can indeed function as a diagnostic tool in differentiating health from disease.
Recently developed pattern-recognition analytic techniques based on electronic noses (3) (mimicking the mammalian nose ), gas chromatography (4), and ion mobility spectrometry show the enormous potential of olfaction-based diagnosis in lung cancer. Of interest, exhaled biomarker profiles were shown to discriminate lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancer (5). However, the exact origins of these cancerous volatile compounds remain to be established. They may originate from a systemic response to a developing neoplasm, such as cachexia and increased oxidative stress. Other volatiles could arise from the microenvironment of the tumor itself through necrosis, obstruction, and effusion. An ongoing study in our laboratory aims to capture volatile signatures produced locally by bronchial carcinomas.
Learn more about subscription options.
Register Now for a free account.
Copyright © 2016 American College of Physicians. All Rights Reserved.
Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
Conditions of Use
This PDF is available to Subscribers Only