A dog can di­ag­nose a can­cer by its smell

Early stud­ies sug­gest a 93% suc­cess rate

Daily Mirror - - NEWS -

Dogs are turn­ing out to be an even bet­ter friend to man than we could have imag­ined. They can spot can­cer early, even be­fore symp­toms appear, through their mag­nif­i­cently sen­si­tive noses. Yes, pretty amaz­ing.

Now, for the first time, a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion is be­ing set up by doc­tors Clare Guest and John Church, of the char­ity Med­i­cal De­tec­tion Dogs, to in­ves­ti­gate this ca­nine skill and its use in prostate can­cer de­tec­tion.

Shock­ingly, prostate can­cer now kills more peo­ple than breast can­cer and the dis­ease’s UK mor­tal­ity rates have in­creased by 21% since the early 1970s. Ex­perts say med­i­cal de­tec­tion dogs can iden­tify the “smell” of the dis­ease. This could spare many men the need to un­dergo un­nec­es­sary in­va­sive tests.

Dogs’ sense of smell is 40 times more pow­er­ful than ours and can de­tect odours at a con­cen­tra­tion of one part per tril­lion. This means they can pick up the scent of dif­fer­ent dis­eases at the ear­li­est stage. The char­ity’s 31 dogs are be­ing trained to de­tect dis­eases that range from malaria to Parkin­son’s, but prostate can­cer is their main fo­cus.

Since 2015, Med­i­cal De­tec­tion Dogs has been work­ing on prostate can­cer de­tec­tion with Mil­ton Keynes Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal NHS Trust.

“We hope within a cou­ple of years it will con­firm pre­vi­ous stud­ies we have con­ducted that sug­gest dogs have a 93% suc­cess rate,” says Dr Guest.

If proven it would put the PSA test in the shade. Three out of four men who have a PSA test re­ceive a pos­i­tive re­sult but don’t have can­cer.

None­the­less, they may have a nee­dle inserted into their prostate un­nec­es­sar­ily. This wouldn’t need to hap­pen us­ing dogs.

The clin­i­cal trial uses anony­mous urine sam­ples – some healthy, some can­cer­ous – in glass pots sent from Mil­ton Keynes Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

Each pot is put on a ‘carousel’ – a stain­less steel mech­a­nism with eight arms. “We’ve trained the dogs to walk around the carousel be­fore stop­ping and sit­ting by a sam­ple they sniff can­cer in,” ex­plains Dr Guest.

The dogs tend to be labradors or cocker spaniels on ac­count of their cu­ri­ous, so­cia­ble na­tures.

They need a min­i­mum of six months’ train­ing, which costs the char­ity £11,000 per dog, af­ter which most can cor­rectly sniff prostate can­cer within a minute.

Each dog works a min­i­mum of three shifts a week, each com­pris­ing three 20-minute spells at the carousel.

Dr Guest’s dogs could make an ini­tial di­ag­no­sis more ac­cu­rate, as well as help­ing doc­tors de­velop their ul­ti­mate aim: cre­at­ing a test­ing ma­chine that mim­ics a dog’s metic­u­lous sense of smell.

It’s just one more thing that we can love dogs for.

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