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High-Throughput Breath Volatile Organic Compound Analysis Using Thermal Desorption Proton Transfer Reaction Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry

Romano, Andrea, Doran, Sophie, Belluomo, Ilaria, Hanna, George Bushra
Analytical chemistry 2018 v.90 no.17 pp. 10204-10210
adenocarcinoma, aldehydes, biomarkers, breath tests, clinical trials, desorption, detection limit, fatty acids, health care workers, mass spectrometry, patients, phenols, volatile organic compounds
Breath analysis is highly acceptable to patients and health care professionals, but its implementation in clinical practice remains challenging. Clinical trials and routine practice require a robust system for collection, storage, and processing of large numbers of samples. This work describes a platform based upon the hyphenation of thermal desorption (TD) with proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-ToF-MS), coupled by means of an original modification of the TD interface. The performance of TD-PTR-ToF-MS was tested against seven oxygenated volatile organic compounds (VOCs), belonging to three chemical classes (i.e., fatty acids, aldehydes, and phenols), previously identified as possible biomarkers of colorectal and esophago-gastric adenocarcinoma. Limits of detection and quantification were on the order of 0.2–0.9 and 0.3–1.5 parts per billion by volume (ppbV), respectively. Analytical recoveries from TD tubes were 80% or higher, linear response was in the low- to mid-ppbV range (R² = 0.98–0.99), and coefficients of variation were within 20% of mean values. The usability of the platform was evaluated in the analysis of a set of breath samples of clinical origin, allowing for a throughput of nearly 100 TD tubes for 24 h of continuous operation. All of these characteristics enhance the implementation of TD-PTR-ToF-MS for large-scale clinical studies.