Exploratory study using urinary volatile organic compounds for the detection of hepatocellular carcinoma

Ayman S. Bannaga, Heena Tyagi, Emma Daulton, James A. Covington, Ramesh P. Arasaradnam

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25 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) biomarkers are lacking in clinical practice. We therefore explored the pattern and composition of urinary volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in HCC patients. This was done in order to assess the feasibility of a potential non-invasive test for HCC, and to enhance our understanding of the disease. This pilot study recruited 58 participants, of whom 20 were HCC cases and 38 were non-HCC cases. The non-HCC cases included healthy individuals and patients with various stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), including those with and without fibrosis. Urine was analysed using gas chromatography–ion mobility spectrometry (GC–IMS) and gas chromatography–time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC–TOF-MS). GC–IMS was able to separate HCC from fibrotic cases with an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.97 (0.91–1.00), and from non-fibrotic cases with an AUC of 0.62 (0.48–0.76). For GC-TOF-MS, a subset of samples was analysed in which seven chemicals were identified and tentatively linked with HCC. These include 4-methyl-2,4-bis(p-hydroxyphenyl)pent-1-ene (2TMS derivative), 2-butanone, 2-hexanone, benzene, 1-ethyl-2-methyl-, 3-butene-1,2-diol, 1-(2-furanyl)-, bicyclo(4.1.0)heptane, 3,7,7-trimethyl-, [1S-(1a,3β,6a)]-, and sulpiride. Urinary VOC analysis using both GC–IMS and GC-TOF-MS proved to be a feasible method of identifying HCC cases, and was also able to enhance our understanding of HCC pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2447
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Diagnosis
  • Headspace analysis
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Urinary biomarkers
  • Volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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