Thursday, August 18, 2011

Man's best friend: How dogs can be trained to sniff out cancer


Man's best friends: German shepherds and Labrador retrievers were trained to detect lung cancer in a landmark German study

Dogs can be trained to identify the scent of lung cancer long before symptoms develop, say researchers.

The uncanny canine ability to detect smells that escape the human nose could be used for the early detection of lung cancer, according to new study.

It is the first to show that sniffer dogs can be relied upon to find the unique smell of the disease in seven out of 10 sufferers.

Researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany believe dogs could become even better at picking up cancer cases with more practice.

But the ultimate goal is to identify the cancer-specific chemical compounds the dogs can smell and develop a device that could be used to help diagnose lung cancer victims at an earlier stage.

Lung cancer is Britain's biggest cancer killer with over 39,000 cases diagnosed annually, of which only 25 per cent will survive a year because the disease is mostly found at an advanced stage when it is very difficult to treat.

Early detection is often by chance, although scientists have been working on using exhaled breath specimens from patients for future screening tests.

These attempt to locate volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the breath that are linked to the presence of cancer, but no reliable methods have been devised so far that are lung-specific.

Woman's best friend: Carol Witcher and her dog Floyd Henry, who she claims discovered her breast cancer with an acute sense of smell

The dogs successfully identified 71 samples with lung cancer out of a possible 100. They also correctly detected 372 samples that did not have lung cancer out of a possible 400.

The dogs could also detect lung cancer independently from COPD, prescription drugs and tobacco smoke, says a report in the European Respiratory Journal.

source: dailymail

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