A relatively simple breath test could prove to be lifesaving for some patients who receive cancer chemotherapy.
The test offers a new method of determining how rapidly patients metabolize docetaxel. In a study of 21 patients with cancer, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill first used several blood tests in a 24-hour period to determine how quickly the patients' livers cleared docetaxel. They then compared those findings with results from a breath test in which the researchers gave the patients a trace dose of erythromycin and measured the amount of carbon dioxide they exhaled. Rapid metabolizers of erythromycin exhale higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, and slow metabolizers exhale smaller amounts.
Voelker R. Chemotherapy Breath Test. JAMA. 2000;283(20):2646. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2646-JQU00003-4-1