JUN 23, 2019 10:54 PM PDT

Can my dog detect cancer better than a PET scan?

Yet another reason to love your pup. New research from The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association suggests that dogs – beagles, specifically – have the capacity to smell lung cancer with extremely high accuracy. Early detection is crucial for effective treatments, but currently, doctors rely on expensive and sometimes inaccurate CT and PET scans to diagnose lung cancer. Senior researcher Professor Thomas Quinn from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine thought there might be a better way, so he and his colleagues trained three beagles to "sniff out" non-small cell lung cancer in plasma blood samples.

"The olfactory acuity of a dog is at least 10,000 times more sensitive than that of a human, which is likely due to their more expansive olfactory epithelium and olfactory receptors and their ability to retain air in their nasopharynx during exhalation," the study authors explain. The researchers chose to work with beagles because they are scent hounds bred for hunting. "Beagles are a medium-sized member of the scent hound family and have 225 million olfactory receptors. In comparison, humans have 5 million olfactory receptors,” write the authors.

Following the dogs’ training, the researchers tested their ability to distinguish between blood samples from individuals with non-small cell lung cancer and blood samples from healthy individuals. They found that the dogs were able to successfully distinguish between the two types of samples, identifying the presence of cancer with 97.5% specificity, and 96.7% sensitivity.

"Right now, it appears dogs have a better natural ability to screen for cancer than our most advanced technology. Once we figure out what they know and how, we may be able to catch up," said Professor Quinn.

Photo: Pixabay

By this, he means that the end goal isn’t actually to use dogs themselves to detect cancers, but instead figure out how they do the detection and then mimic that part via our own technology. "We're using the dogs to sort through the layers of scent until we identify the tell-tale biomarkers," Quinn says. Ultimately, the scientists aim to develop an inexpensive over-the-counter screening test that would permit individuals to self-detect the presence of cancer by breathing into it, a cancer breathalyzer of sorts. Quinn and his colleagues are currently continuing their research to expanding testing the dogs' ability to identify several other forms of cancer, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Sources: Medical News Today, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUL 18, 2019
Cancer
JUL 18, 2019
A vaccine to protect your pup from cancer
They are our best friends, our constant company, our unconditional loves: our dogs. Though they often pass through our own lives for less time than our hum...
JUL 18, 2019
Cancer
JUL 18, 2019
Children with liver cancer may not need as much chemo
Results from a phase 3 clinical trial show that children with liver cancer may not need as much chemotherapy as has been traditionally administered. The mo...
JUL 18, 2019
Cancer
JUL 18, 2019
Additional drug in hormone therapy for breast cancer extends women's lives
The findings from a new clinical trial were presented this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. The trial showed th...
JUL 18, 2019
Cancer
JUL 18, 2019
Post-breast cancer women have a higher risk of heart disease
Can’t women get a break? Apparently not, according to new research from the Botucatu Medical School at Paulista State University in Sao Paulo, Brazil...
JUL 18, 2019
Cancer
JUL 18, 2019
Is there a link between cancer and long-term memory?
Can there actually be something good about having cancer? New research published in JAMA Network Open suggests that older people who have cancer have bette...
JUL 18, 2019
Cancer
JUL 18, 2019
Skin Color Protein Used to Better Evaluate Skin Cancer
The large, complex molecules known as proteins perform many crucial functions in the human body. By carrying out diverse kinds of work in our cells, they k...
Loading Comments...