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Headspace Volatile Organic Compound Profiling of Pleural Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer Cell Lines as Translational Bridge for Breath Research

  • Janssens, Eline1, 2
  • Mol, Zoë3
  • Vandermeersch, Lore3
  • Lagniau, Sabrina4, 5, 6
  • Vermaelen, Karim Y.4, 5, 6
  • van Meerbeeck, Jan P.1, 2, 4, 7
  • Walgraeve, Christophe3
  • Marcq, Elly8
  • Lamote, Kevin1, 2, 4
  • 1 Laboratory of Experimental Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Antwerp, Antwerp , (Belgium)
  • 2 Infla-Med Center of Excellence, University of Antwerp, Antwerp , (Belgium)
  • 3 Department of Green Chemistry and Technology, Environmental Organic Chemistry and Technology (EnVOC) Research Group, Ghent University, Ghent , (Belgium)
  • 4 Department of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Ghent University, Ghent , (Belgium)
  • 5 Department of Respiratory Medicine, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent , (Belgium)
  • 6 Tumor Immunology Lab, Ghent University, Ghent , (Belgium)
  • 7 Department of Pulmonology and Thoracic Oncology, Antwerp University Hospital, Edegem , (Belgium)
  • 8 Center for Oncological Research (CORE), Integrated Personalized and Precision Oncology Network (IPPON), University of Antwerp, Antwerp , (Belgium)
Published Article
Frontiers in Oncology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
May 06, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/fonc.2022.851785
  • Oncology
  • Original Research


Introduction Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a lethal cancer for which early-stage diagnosis remains a major challenge. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath proved to be potential biomarkers for MPM diagnosis, but translational studies are needed to elucidate which VOCs originate from the tumor itself and thus are specifically related to MPM cell metabolism. Methods An in vitro model was set-up to characterize the headspace VOC profiles of six MPM and two lung cancer cell lines using thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. A comparative analysis was carried out to identify VOCs that could discriminate between MPM and lung cancer, as well as between the histological subtypes within MPM (epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic). Results VOC profiles were identified capable of distinguishing MPM (subtypes) and lung cancer cells with high accuracy. Alkanes, aldehydes, ketones and alcohols represented many of the discriminating VOCs. Discrepancies with clinical findings were observed, supporting the need for studies examining breath and tumor cells of the same patients and studying metabolization and kinetics of in vitro discovered VOCs in a clinical setting. Conclusion While the relationship between in vitro and in vivo VOCs is yet to be established, both could complement each other in generating a clinically useful breath model for MPM.

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