Anton Amann

Innsbruck Medical University, Austria

Title: Lung cancer screening by analysis of exhaled breath


Anton Amann is Head of the Breath Research Institute of the University of Innsbruck. He has worked on volatiles released through exhaled breath, skin emanations and urine and has studied volatile compounds released by cell and bacterial cultures. A specifi c focus of his work is on real-time analysis of exhaled breath. He has coordinated the EU-project BAMOD and was awarded the Marie-Curie medal of the Polish Chemical Society in 2010. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Breath Research and Chairman of the International Association for Breath Research (IABR).


Volatile compounds released through exhaled breath, the nasal cavity, oral cavity, urine or sweat play an important role in the human metabolism. Typical techniques used for their analysis are gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection (GCMS) and proton-transfer-reaction time-of-fl ight mass spectrometry (PTR-TOF). A most interesting possibility is real-time analysis of exhaled breath, during exertion of an eff ort on a stationary bicycle or during sleep. Th is has been done for a few compounds like isoprene, acetone, 2-pentanone or dimethylsulfi de. Th e investigation of exhaled breath of cancer patients is a particular focus of research. Some compounds (e.g., pentanal, hexanal, octanal and nonanal) appear in higher concentrations in cancer patients as compared to healthy volunteers, whereas other compounds (like isoprene) show lower concentration in exhaled breath of cancer patients. During the past decade about 115 diff erent volatile biomarkers have been published in regard to cancer. For all these compounds careful validation studies will be necessary. Cancer cell culture investigations reveal that diff erent cell types can release or consume diff erent volatile compounds. Compounds released are hydrocarbons (e.g. 2, 3, 4-trimethylpentane, octane or 4-methylheptane), alcohols (e.g., 3-methyl-1-butanol, ethanol or 2-methyl-1-propanol), esters, acetone and 2-pentanone. Th e use of endogenously produced volatiles in diff erent fi elds of research is still at its very beginning. Th e use of isotopically labeled compounds for measurement of enzyme activity with breath tests based on exhaled 13CO2 is already very near to clinical application. Th is off ers the possibility of non-invasive phenotyping, thereby complementing genetic tests and opening up the way to a “personalized” medicine.