A British organization, called Medical Detection Dogs, has been training around 8 dogs to detect cancer based on urine samples, becoming the latest tool in the early detection and treatment of some forms of the disease.
Since the last 26 years, humans have been doing an infinite number of studies to deeply know the olfactory system of dogs. These studies have shown that the noses of dogs are more sensitive than humans, with 300 million sensors (compared with the only 5 million that can be found in humans). They also found that dogs have a second device of smell in the back of their nose that allows sniffer dogs detect unique odors, such as cancer, which have been determined as volatile organic compounds.
In the study, researchers wanted to make sure the dogs actually smelled cancer and no other factors, such as old age or some other set of symptoms. To test the theory, they placed the dogs in front of a carousel that contained eight evenly spaced urine samples, in which seven of them contained the urine of patients who were free of cancer, leaving only one sample of a patient who did have cancer. At least one of those seven samples was from a patient about the same age as the cancer patient who had symptoms of the disease but didn’t actually have it.
Clinical trials proved remarkably successful when dogs were able to determine the urine sample containing the disease.
The inspiration and idea of founding the charity were given by Claire Guest after her dog, a fox red Labrador, discovered a lump in her breast. The woman indicated that the dog kept looking at her and lunging into her chest, which led her to find the lump. The doctors of the CEO told her that the lump that was found was small at that time, but if it wasn’t detected at the time, it would have been a very advanced one.
If the dogs are proven to truly be able to detect cancer consistently, the research could someday lead to an “electronic nose,” a machine that can be used in conjunction with current cancer tests to give better diagnoses in the future.
Guest stated after the trials, “We need quick, cheap, non-invasive ways of checking people regularly for cancer. At Medical Detection Dogs, we believe we have developed such a solution. Dogs’ noses can detect parts per trillion – that’s a drop of blood in two Olympic-sized swimming pools. They can smell the odour of cancerous volatiles in urine or breath samples with confidence and in training trials we are recording reliability of up to 93 percent,” according to Her.ie