Dogs as diagnostic tools to sniff out cancers

June 9, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

A dog is man’s best friends in more ways than one. So why not in helping humans in detecting cancer? I already have previously reported the use of dogs as animal sensors in “sniffing out” cancer. This strange but rather useful and non-invasive form of diagnostics is based on the fact that dogs and other animals have highly developed olfactory sense and that certain types of cancer produce biochemicals not found in healthy individuals. More and more research studies are focusing on animal sensors and I hereby bring you the latest research updates.

Sniffing out prostate cancer

In a more recent study, French researchers from the Tenon Hospital in Paris report that dogs can be trained to “sniff out” prostate cancer. The researchers used a Belgian Malinois, a breed of shepherd dog that is also trained to sniff out bombs in their study. The dog was trained to distinguish between urine samples of healthy volunteers and prostate cancer patients. The theory is that the urine of cancer patients contains volatile organic compounds not found in urine of healthy individuals. These unique chemicals can be detected by dogs, animals which have very keen sense of smell. The researchers claim that this method of detecting prostate cancer is more reliable than the current standard method of testing for prostate-specific antigens (PSA). The process of training dogs took about a year. However, the researchers aim to take the research one step further. They want to identify those chemicals that the dogs detect, and then use them to develop an “electronic nose” that can eventually replace animal sensors.
The researchers presented their results at the American Urological Association meeting in San Francisco last week.

Sniffing out lung cancer

Similarly, unique chemicals seem to be present in the breath of lung cancer patients that may be detectable by animal sensors. However, recent research results suggest that cancer-specific chemicals are also present in the urine of lung cancer patients, which makes diagnostics even easier. The researchers demonstrated the potential for this diagnostic tool in mice, using mice with and without lung cancer as well trained senor mice. According to study author Dr. Steven M. Albelda of the William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine:

“Finding new ways to screen for early lung cancers in patients at risk, such as smokers, is one of the best ways we have to reduce the high death rate from this disease,” Using the same chemical approaches as in this paper, we hope to be able to detect odors in urine of smokers that could be used to identify lung cancer at a very early stage.”

The next step might be to try training dogs to do what the mice can do.

Sniiffing out ovarian cancer

Swedish researchers have reported that ovarian cancer also comes with its unique set of cancer biochemicals. Furthermore, these chemicals even differ from other types of gynaecological problems such as endometriosis or cervical cancer. These chemicals manifest as odor or scent which dogs can detect. The researchers also report that dogs can sniff out these chemicals in even in early and low-grade ovarian cancers that might be overlooked during standard diagnostic procedures. According to Dr. Keith I. Block, editor-in-chief of the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies:

“I believe there is great value in this study, which adds to the growing body of research suggesting the diagnostic skills of these specially trained dogs. Their ability to detect specific odors associated with chemicals related to malignancy should eventually lead to effective methods and tools for very early detection, and thus a greater proportion of cancer cures!”

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.