Sniffing out lung cancer
A University of Waikato researcher is looking at how dogs can be used for lung cancer screening.
The Waikato Medical Research Foundation has given Tim Edwards $30,000 to start the first part of the research.
He and his team are training pet dogs, including his own dog Tui, collecting breath and saliva samples for sniffing.
Dr Edwards says there is a real need for a cheaper and less intrusive way of mass screening for lung cancer, as often by the time people are referred for testing it is too late.
“The disease has a high mortality rate, so being able to make even a small difference would help save lives.”
The research is using the only known fully automated scent detection mechanism for dogs. The dogs put their muzzle in the device, breaking a beam of light as they sniff the sample. If the dog holds its nose inside for a set period, it is a positive indication.
The dog gets a food treat. Dr Edwards says there is already some clear science around using dog detection in other fields. One of the first things people ask is what the dogs are smelling.
“If we could answer that question and list a few chemicals or something, that would make people happier. In one sense, we are all curious about that, but in another it doesn’t matter. They’re probably actually smelling a whole bouquet of compounds, and each dog’s definition is likely to be a bit different.” He is using a range of pet dogs.
“It’s not about the breed, as all dogs have ridiculously sensitive olfaction. It’s about their temperament and willingness to work,” he says.