Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield of CNN reported on Friday about the power of a dog’s nose to sniff out diseases like cancer. In the UK, a very special dog named Lucy failed her service dog training due to her nose, so she was re-purposed for her best trait. For seven years, Lucy was trained to use that nose to detect bladder, prostate, and kidney cancer. She was so talented she was involved in an NIH study as well. Her amazing scent work has managed to detect cancer with a 95% success rate. According to CNN that is better than some cancer lab tests.
In the UK Lucy is now participating in a clinical trial with the National Health Service to see if she can use that powerful nose to sniff out cancer in urine samples with other Medical Detection Dogs. Claire Guest, the CEO of the detection dog organization had her own dog, Daisy, help her detect breast cancer in early stages. The dog was persistent enough to motivate Claire to get checked out, and Daisy ostensibly saved her owner’s life.
Dogs have more 60 times more sensors in their nose than humans. These extra sensors allow dogs to find volatile organic compounds that help detect cancers. There are other stories of dogs who seem persistent in smelling cancerous points on their owner’s body, many of which may have proven to be right.
Studies that have taken place globally including France, California and Italy and it has become true that dogs really can smell cancer. The study in Britain hopes to prove that what the dogs are smelling is in fact cancer and not something else.
The study uses eight urine samples, one that includes cancer, and some similar but not cancerous samples. The dogs will be observed to see if it is actually cancer that the nose detects or something else. The Medical Detection Dogs involved in the study may help future diagnostic testing and could potentially be used in addition to traditional medical processes.
Although funding is difficult to get at the moment, Guest and others are hopeful that dogs could help develop cancer testing further. In the UK community, Medical Detection Dogs have droves of supporters. The organization has even hosted a global canine conference which convened scientists from Europe, Asia, and America. Lord Aster, of the House of Lords in the UK is a supporter of the program as well as British QVC presenter and author, Debbie Flint, television presenter Kate Humble, and even the Prince of Wales is donating proceeds to help the program.
Guest has spoken on BBC Radio, and won the British Citizen Award. Daisy was awarded the Blue Cross Medal for her work in sniffing out cancer. For more information about Daisy, be sure to check out this video.
For information in the United States, check out dogsdetectcancer.org who along with the Insitu Foundation, the protocol for medical detection scent dogs is being created. Their current pups include Stewie, Leo, Charlie, Linus, and Alfie. Check out their blog article about cancer sniffing dogs.