Increased number of volatile organic compounds over malignant glottic lesions

Hagit Shoffel-Havakuk*, Idan Frumin, Yonatan Lahav, Lior Haviv, Noam Sobel, Doron Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives/Hypothesis: Electronic noses can identify diseases, including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by the fingerprint of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled air. However, whether these VOCs originated from the malignant lesion itself remains unclear. The objective was to test for the presence and properties of VOCs directly over the vocal folds in malignant and benign lesions, as a potential tool for noninvasive screening. Study Design: Prospective observational case control study. Methods: Samples of mucus directly covering vocal fold lesions were analyzed using gas chromatography mass spectrometry for detection of VOCs, and evaluation of the properties and quantity of VOCs in the samples. Additionally, samples of oropharyngeal mucus were analyzed to exclude VOCs found also in the vicinity of the lesion. Benign and malignant lesion groups were compared using a nonparametric (Mann-Whitney) test. Results: We studied 14 patients, six with SCC and eight with benign pathology. We found an increased number of discrete VOC types in patients with SCC both above the lesion (SCC = 4.333 ± 2.5, benign = 0.875 ± 0.6; Z=3, P <.001) and directly above the lesion with exclusion of its vicinity (SCC = 3.167 ± 1.9, benign = 0.5 ± 0.5; Z = 2.8, P <.003). VOCs detected in SCCs but not in benign samples included the straight-chain fatty acids: butyric acid, pentanoic acid, hexanoic acid, and heptanoic acid. Conclusions: Compared with benign vocal fold lesions, the environment of vocal folds in SCC is enriched with VOCs. These preliminary findings highlight a unique pattern that may contribute to the development of a future minimally invasive technology for screening vocal fold lesions for malignancy. Level of Evidence: NA Laryngoscope, 126:1606–1611, 2016.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1606-1611
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Laryngeal carcinoma
  • chromatography
  • electronic nose
  • glottis
  • vocal folds
  • volatile organic compounds


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