Tumour detecting dogs sniff out new cancer diagnosis

Dogs can be trained to spot prostate cancer, a medical research hospital has discovered through the course of a study.

The researchers say that, in time, the information could lead to the development of better diagnosis instruments as a result.

The news was announced at the yearly conference for the American Urological Association, which reported on the research conducted in Italy.

The lead author on the study, Dr Gianluigi Taverna, said:

“This study gives us a standardized method of diagnosis that is reproducible, low cost and non-invasive.”

The head of prostatic diseases for Milan’s Humanitas Research Hospital continued:

“Using dogs to recognize prostate cancer might help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and better pinpoint patients at high risk for the disease.”

The study analysed urine samples from a split group of 902 candidates.

Two former explosive-detection dogs were trained to sniff out prostate cancer-specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The canines were both three-year-old German Shepherds, one name Liu and the other Zoe.

The results saw one dog select 100% of the right VOC samples, while the second dog achieved a 98.6% accuracy rate. Both animals also had similarly high results in eliminating control group samples.

The findings are not likely to result in dogs walking the corridors of oncology departments, but the way that the animals recognise biomarkers could be developed into new diagnostics for the industry. Taverna said the next step in his team’s work is to duplicate the results with a machine.