BY JENNY STOCKS
Wonderdog: Daisy the labrador with Jenny Stocks who's holding new recruit Alice
Daisy the labrador is hard at work on a project that could change your life and mine.
In her smart red jacket, she wanders around a metal carousel in a small centre outside Milton Keynes, sniffing at the different scents that are attached to its 12 spokes. Then she stops.
She’s found what she’s looking for and looks expectantly up at her handler — she knows that when she recognises this specific smell, she will soon get an edible reward.
New technology: The research might create new ways of detecting cancer (picture posed by model having a mammogram)
While Daisy enjoys the process (and her dog biscuits) her actions are more than just a game — they have huge implications for all of us.
Because what this seven-year-old dog is sniffing is a selection of samples from a local hospital. And she has just located the only one that came from a cancer patient.
Daisy, quite simply, is being taught to sniff out cancer. She is one of the world’s first bio-detection dogs — trained animals that may one day revolutionise medical diagnosis.
We all know that dogs have far more powerful noses than humans — indeed their sense of smell is up to 100,000 times better than ours.
A dog's sense of smell is up to 100,000 times better than ours
That skill has, of course, been put to good use for decades, in the form of drug-sniffing dogs at ferry terminals and airports as well as the Army’s bomb detection canines.
But, in recent years, a dedicated team of researchers has been developing what is potentially an even greater breakthrough.
Earlier this year, German research discovered that dogs could sniff out lung cancer from breath samples of sufferers.
The four dogs in the study learned to get it right 71 per cent of the time, far too high to be mere coincidence.
Closer to home came the story of British pensioner Maureen Burns, who made headlines when her collie-cross Max started sniffing her breath and nudging her right breast — where it turned out she had a tiny cancerous tumour developing that doctors hadn’t yet picked up.
Lifetime project: Dr. Claire Guest who is responsible for the British research into cancer sniffer-dogs has spent almost 20 years working with Hearing Dogs For The Deaf (pictured)
A dog that can smell cancer before doctors can diagnose it?
If it sounds far-fetched — a case of wishful thinking rather than genuine canine skill — then there is solid scientific theory behind it.
It’s believed that cancers produce volatile chemicals that dogs can be trained to smell, which could have dramatic implications for early diagnosis of the disease.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The dogs that can detect cancer: Meet the four-legged 'bio-detectives' who are pioneering a health revolution
BY JENNY STOCKS