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Br J Cancer. 2011 Oct 11;105(8):1183-90. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.354. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

HPV in exhaled breath condensate of lung cancer patients.

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Institute of Respiratory Disease, Department of Medical and Occupational Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy.



A recent intriguing carcinogenetic hypothesis for lung cancer foresees its viral aetiology. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the main virus actually recognised in the pathogenesis of lung cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate, for the first time to our knowledge, the presence of HPV in the exhaled breath condensate (EBC) of lung cancer patients.


We enrolled 89 patients affected by lung cancer and 68 controls. HPV infections were investigated in their EBC, paired bronchial brushing and neoplastic lung tissue through genotyping.


We were able to detect HPV in the EBC, bronchial brushing and neoplastic lung tissue. We described the presence of an HPV infection in 16.4% of the subjects affected by non-small cell lung cancer, but in none of the controls. HPV 16 and 31 turned out to be the most widespread genotypes. The HPV positivity in airways as well as in the smoking habit was seen to independently increase the individual's susceptibility to developing lung cancer.


When summing up, we demonstrated the possibility to identify an HPV infection in the EBC of lung cancer patients; further, we supported the notion that the EBC is a suitable tool to study airway colonisation. That being said, although further studies are needed to confirm our results, we retain the study of HPV in EBC to be very interesting in terms of future programmes involving lung-cancer screening.

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