Sniff­ing out lung can­cer

Hamilton Metro News - - HEALTH -

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.

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