Results collected in more than 20 years of studies suggest a relationship between the volatile organic compounds exhaled in breath and lung cancer. However, the origin of these compounds is still not completely elucidated. In spite of the simplistic vision that cancerous tissues in lungs directly emit the volatile metabolites into the airways, some papers point out that metabolites are collected by the blood and then exchanged at the air-blood interface in the lung. To shed light on this subject we performed an experiment collecting both the breath and the air inside both the lungs with a modified bronchoscopic probe. The samples were measured with a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) and an electronic nose. We found that the diagnostic capability of the electronic nose does not depend on the presence of cancer in the sampled lung, reaching in both cases an above 90% correct classification rate between cancer and non-cancer samples. On the other hand, multivariate analysis of GC-MS achieved a correct classification rate between the two lungs of only 76%. GC-MS analysis of breath and air sampled from the lungs demonstrates a substantial preservation of the VOCs pattern from inside the lung to the exhaled breath.
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