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Non-invasive biomarker discovery with Breath Biopsy® could help to enable early detection of cancer by measuring volatile organic compounds in patients' breath

Biomarkers for Cancer Diagnosis

Biomarkers for Cancer Diagnosis

Globally around 18 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 9.5 million people die due to cancer-related causes every year.1 It is estimated that the number of new cancer cases per year will rise to 29.5 million and the number of cancer-related deaths to 16.4 million by 2040.1

Early diagnosis is key to improving cancer survival. Taking bowel cancer as an example, diagnosis at stage 4 leads to a 5 year survival of around 44%. However, early detection at stage 1 dramatically increases survival to around 98%.Early detection of cancer could be possible by identifying breath biomarkers related to the metabolic changes involved in cancer development and the immune response to cancer.

Human breath contains over 1,000 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can originate from endogenous metabolism or exogenous sources such as diet, the environment or the microbiome. Collecting and analyzing these compounds can be a rich source of information relevant to health and disease. By developing Breath Biopsy, Owlstone Medical have become the world-leaders in robust and reliable, non-invasive breath collection for biomarker discovery research.

1., Cancer Statistics (visited March 2021),

2. Office for National Statistics, Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England (visited March 2021),

About Breath Biomarkers

Many exhaled VOCs are the products of metabolism and so reflect biochemical activities within the body; biomarkers originating from all parts of the body can be captured in breath. It has been observed that the metabolic profile of cancerous cells differs from non-cancerous cells. Finding breath biomarkers associated to cancer-related metabolic changes would be a significant step forward for early detection.

Breath Biopsy uses the ReCIVA® Breath Sampler for non-invasive breath sample collection, pre-concentrating VOCs directly from breath onto adsorbent tubes. This allows more VOCs to be captured per sample and increases the sensitivity of the system to low abundance VOCs (which is the case in the early stages of disease). Breath Biopsy provides robust biomarker discovery pipelines using GC-MS analysis provided through Breath Biopsy OMNI. Breath Biopsy is currently in use in our PAN Cancer Trial, which is investigating breath biomarkers for multiple types of cancer.

Our Ongoing Clinical Study PAN: Early Detection of Biomarkers in Multiple Cancers


We’re working on cancer with these groups:

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Our team organize and attend a range of events to showcase Breath Biopsy. This includes our webinar series and the annual Breath Biopsy Conference (BBCon), a keystone event for the breath research community.

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Catch-up on recent breath research with on-demand presentations from the Breath Biopsy Conference

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Speakers from the Breath Biopsy Conference 2021

Recommended Reading

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