Dogs can sniff out cancer in the blood with nearly 100 percent accuracy, a new study has found.
It has been long known that our wet-nosed companions are highly sensitive to odors that we cannot always perceive but researchers at BioScentDx have discovered that dogs can actually use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 percent accuracy.
The implications of these results are massive.
"Although there is currently no cure for cancer, early detection offers the best hope of survival," said Heather Junqueira, who is lead researcher at BioScentDx and performed the study. "A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated."
To arrive at their findings, Junqueira and her team taught four beagles to distinguish between normal blood serum and samples from patients with malignant lung cancer through a form of clicker training. Three of the dogs were able to identify lung cancer samples with an average 97 percent accuracy.
"This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools," said Junqueira. "One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds."
This is not the first time that experts have turned to their canine pals in an effort to detect cancer and other diseases. The Medical Detection Dogs has been driving a similar initiative for years. Their goal is to train dogs to "detect the odor of human disease," according to their . Their dogs are trained to pick up the scent of diseases, such as cancer, in samples such as urine, breath and swabs.
Claire Guest, the CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, founded the organization after her fox red Labrador, Daisy, was able to catch her breast cancer several years ago.
"She kept staring at me and lunging into my chest. It led me to find a lump," Guest told CNN. It turned out the tumor was deep in her breast and by the time it grew to the size where she could detect the lump herself, it would have been too late.
"Had it not been drawn to my attention by Daisy, I'm told my prognosis would have been very poor," she said.