BioScience Trends. 2009;3(3):110-114.

Exhaled ethane concentration in patients with cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract - a proof of concept study.

Abela JE, Skeldon KD, Padgett MJ, Stuart RC


There has been growing interest in the measurement of breath ethane as an optimal non-invasive marker of oxidative stress. High concentrations of various breath alkanes including ethane have been reported in a number of malignancies. Our aim was to investigate the use of novel laser spectroscopy for rapid reporting of exhaled ethane and to determine whether breath ethane concentration is related to a diagnosis of upper gastrointestinal malignancy. Two groups of patients were recruited. Group A (n = 20) had a histo-pathological diagnosis of either esophageal or gastric malignancy. Group B (n = 10) was made up of healthy controls. Breath samples were collected from these subjects and the ethane concentration in these samples was subsequently measured to an accuracy of 0.2 parts per billion, ppb. Group A patients had a corrected exhaled breath ethane concentration of 2.3 ± 0.8 (mean ± SEM) ppb. Group B patients registered a mean of 3.1 ± 0.5 ppb. There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups (p = 0.39). In conclusion, concentrations of ethane in collected breath samples were not significantly elevated in upper gastrointestinal malignancy. The laser spectroscopy system provided a reliable and rapid turnaround for breath sample analysis.

KEYWORDS: Ethane gas, oxidative stress, laser spectroscopy, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer

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