31 January 2011

The Use of Dogs for Early Cancer Detection

This is about another type of service dog. Researchers in Japan have proven that dogs are accurate detectors of cancer, colon cancer specifically.

Researchers used a Labrador retriever that was trained for several months to sniff out colorectal cancer in the breath and watery stool samples. They stated that in previous studies on dogs and cancer that the dogs can detect lung and breast cancer from breath samples and that there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that dogs can detect melanoma, bladder, and ovarian cancers.

The research took place at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. The dog was used to detect colorectal cancer from patients and volunteers, some that had gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease. The dog correctly identified cancer in 33 of 36 breath tests and in 37 of 38 stool tests.

The highest detection rates were among samples taken from patients with early-stage cancer. Samples taken from smokers and from people with other gastrointestinal diseases, which possibly might mask or interfere with cancer odors, did not seem to confuse the dog.

The most encouraging statement from the researchers is, “this study shows that a specific cancer scent does exist”. Then they go on to state that they are not suggesting using dogs in a clinical setting.

They are right that the training of the dog is expensive and time consuming. They also say that the ability and concentration varies between individual dogs and even the same dog on different days.
Of course then they state why the study is preformed, to determine whether there could be something that could be used to develop cancer detection tests based on “odor materials.” They are looking for cancer-specific volatile organic compounds that can be used to develop an early cancer detection sensor that would substitute for the dog.

Read about the study here.

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