Breath tests (BTs) represent a safe non-invasive alternative strategy that could provide valuable diagnostic information in conditions like fat malabsorption, carbohydrate (lactose and fructose) malabsorption, liver dysfunction, impaired gastric emptying, abnormal small bowel transit time, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and Helicobacter pylori infection. To date, despite the availability of a number of breath tests, only three have gained approval by the FDA for application in a clinical setting (13C-urea breath test for the detection of H. pylori; NO breath test for monitoring asthma and alkane breath test for heart transplant rejection). Unfortunately, none of these tests investigate cancer patients or response to cancer chemotherapy. Several years ago it was realized that the presence of a reliable non-invasive approach could assist in the detection of patients at risk of developing severe life-threatening toxicities prior to the administration of fluoropyrimidines (e.g. 5-FU) or related cancer chemotherapy. 5-FU toxicity results mainly from deficient uracil catabolism. This review discusses the development of a BT that utilizes an orally administered pyrimidine ([2-13C]-uracil) which is metabolized via the same catabolic pathway as 5-FU. This ([2- 13C]-uracil) breath test could provide a valuable addition to the patients' standard of care. © 2009 IOP Publishing Ltd.