Dogs with three weeks of training can best the latest CAT, PET and MRI scanners at detecting some forms of cancer by sniffing breath samples.
A peer-reviewed study, led by Michael McCulloch of the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo, California, and Tadeusz Jezierski of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding, reveals scientific evidence that a dog's scenting ability can distinguish people with both early and late stage lung and breast cancers from healthy controls.
Lung cancer, when symptoms arise, is usually diagnosed at Stage III or IV, when the prognosis is rarely good. Aiming to develop a feasible and effective early detection method, the investigators based their work on the observation that cancer cells emit different metabolic waste products than normal cells. The differences between these metabolic products are apparently so great that they can be detected by a dog's keen sense of smell, even in the early stages of disease.
The researchers found that ordinary dogs, could be rapidly trained to identify lung and breast cancer patients by smelling samples of their breath, and that their diagnostic performance was not affected by disease stage of cancer patients, age, smoking, or most recently eaten meal among either cancer patients or controls.
The study will be published in the March 2006 issue of the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies and more details are available now on the Pine Street's Diagnostic Accuracy of Canine Scent Detection of Lung and Breast Cancers in Exhaled Breath, BrightSurf's Can dogs smell cancer? and in the Dr Dog, the cancer specialist article at Times Online.