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Much more than just hot air - Prof Josep Sule-Suso's inaugural lecture
"Breath Analysis in Cancer Management: are we getting there or is it just hot air?" was the title of Professor Josep Sule-Suso's Inaugural Lecture on 12 June 2017 in Keele's Westminster Theatre. A large audience of fellow clinicians, researchers, friends and his family heard an informative and entertaining talk about his work in managing cancer, understaning its causes and new treatments over many years.
The application of breath analysis in the management of disease goes back to ancient Greece when Hippocrates described fetor oris (halitosis) and fetor hepaticus (a sign of liver failure). Since then, people have been aware through observation that some breath smells were related to certain diseases. A major breakthrough was achieved when Linus Pauling described in 1971 over 200 different Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in human exhaled air and in urine headspace. The use of breath analysis as a non-invasive tool to manage diseases has clear examples in the [13/14C] urea breath test used in the diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection and the nitric oxide (NO) breath test in the diagnosis of airway inflammation. Present techniques can now measure VOCs in the range of parts per million (ppm) to parts per trillion (ppt) by volume. The identification of VOCs in the breath of patients with cancer, specially lung cancer, has attracted a lot of interest in the last few years. While several studies including Prof Sule-Suso's have been able to differentiate between cancer cells and non-malignant cells grown in vitro based on their VOCs’ profile in the headspace cultures, the in vivo studies have provided conflicting results. Several factors such as the origin of the VOCs (from tumour cells and/or tumour microenvironment), sample collection and VOCs detection need still to be tackled before breath analysis can make it into clinical practice. In his Inaugural Lecture, Prof Sule-Suso discussed some of these issues and the work carried out using Keele's Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS) technology for VOCs analysis specially in lung cancer.In the photograph above, Prof Sule Suso is shown after the Lecture, with his wife and sons, flanked by Deputy VC Prof Mark Ormerod and RM&HS Dean Prof Pauline Walsh.