Dogs’ nose for cancer research
A Waikato University academic has secured a six-figure grant to study whether dogs can detect lung cancer from breath and saliva samples.
Dr Timothy Edwards, a senior lecturer in psychology, has been awarded a $233,607 grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.
Edwards’ work examining how scent-detection dogs can be used for lung cancer screening was given a kickstart in 2017 when he received a $30,000 grant from the Waikato Medical Research Foundation.
The new grant will fund 36 months of research.
‘‘Because of the Waikato Medical Research funding, we can now hit the ground running,’’ Edwards said.
To date, Edwards and his team have collected breath and saliva samples for sniffing and recruited a squad of dogs. New dogs will be added to the roster.
Training the dogs with the breath and saliva samples is expected to start in the next two months.
Edwards’ research uses an automated canine scentdetection apparatus. The dogs put their muzzles in the device and sniff a sample.
If the dog holds its muzzle inside for a certain length of time, it’s regarded as a positive indication.
Edwards said the saliva and breath samples had been sourced from people visiting the Waikato DHB’s respiratory clinic.
Edwards said there was a demand for cheaper and less intrusive ways of screening for lung cancer.
Several studies around the world had shown dogs’ ability to identify cancer but few had mass involved methods that could be used in a clinical setting.
Edwards has previously worked in Tanzania studying the ability of giant African pouched rats to detect tuberculosis.
The hope is Edwards’ research can help the development of machine-based sensor technology.
Waikato University senior psychology lecturer Dr Timothy Edwards and his dog Tui.