CANINE CANCER PROJECT
I hope by mid-year we’ll be able to confidentially say that dog is starting to realise that urine’s got cancer.
— Matt Hibberd
DOGS could be the key to early cancer detection thanks to their incredible sense of smell.
In a Queensland-first, owner of Lawdogs Australia Matt Hibberd is hoping to train his truffle detection dogs to detect cancer cells in urine.
“Dogs are naturally attracted to cancer in the body, and we know when people have cancerous cells they emit volatile organic compounds through different parts of their body, whether it’s their saliva, their sweat, their breath or their urine,” Mr Hibberd said.
“We want to tap into some of those particularly harder to detect and ones people aren’t screening much for - like prostate cancer for men who don’t really go to the doctor when they should.”
The aim of the project is to develop a home test kit as an alternative to cancers which use more invasive detection such as prostate or cervical.
Although the process for training dogs to detect cancer is fundamentally the same as training them to detect truffles, a lot more precision is required.
“Instead of exposing the dog to one sample of truffle a few dozen times, we are going to have to expose it to 500 samples of patients urine to get them to condition or imprint what the common denominator is which is cancer, because there’s a lot of other smells in that urine as well.
“It’s the same process overall but the detail requires a lot more analysis and a lot more samples.”
The next step for Mr Hibberd is partnering with a medical practitioner to develop a clinical study.
“I would hope over the next month or two we’ll get those partnerships in place and get the methodology in place and be able to start the training in March to April.
“Because of the volume of samples we’re probably looking at three to six months to try and train the dogs up.
“I would say later this year we’d be able to turn around to a student or an independent body and say come and verify what we’re doing,” Mr Hibberd said.
“I hope by mid-year we’ll be able to confidently say that dog is starting to realise that urine’s got cancer.”
Watching his own Dad’s battle with prostate cancer along with wanting to start a philanthropic project were what inspired Mr Hibberd to start the project.
“We've got the dogs, we've got the resources, we've got the runs on the board, there's five days a week we’re not doing anything, we could be developing the next best thing.
“Tourism is quite fragile in this region, anyone who just relies on a tourism product will go broke very quickly.”
EARLY DETECTION: Matt Hibberd, from Lawdogs Australia, is planning to use his dogs to detect cancer in urine samples.