JUN 23, 2015 6:47 PM PDT

Paging Dr. Dog

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
Diagnosing cancer can be tricky. Often, patients undergo invasive procedures that yield unclear results, creating emotional and financial burdens. Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock propose a solution: man's best friend. Donald Bodenner, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues trained Frankie the dog to sniff out metastatic thyroid cancer from urine samples. Frankie was presented with 34 urine samples given by patients scheduled for traditional thyroid biopsies. According to data presented by Andrew Hinson, M.D., at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting, Frankie's diagnosis matched the final biopsy results in 30 of 34 patient samples. Visit (http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/endo-meetings.2015.thpta.6.fri-036) to sink your teeth into the study's abstract.

Scent dogs could be a valuable tool for diagnosing cancer
Frankie isn't the only dog on the UAMS campus sniffing out cancer. Over the past few years, Alexander "Sandy" Burnett, M.D., and the American Scent Dog Association have been training dogs to detect ovarian cancer, a diagnosis that is often difficult to make until the disease reaches an advanced stage. The first dog to enter Burnett's program was a rescued Border Collie named John D., and in 2013 he was named the national Search and Rescue Hero Dog of the Year.

Scent dogs aren't likely to supplant the common biopsy any time soon, but their skills could streamline the process of early cancer detection by reducing the number of false negative and positive test results. Not to mention, they work cheap.

(Sources: www.press.endocrine.org, www.uams.edu)
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
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