Lung Cancer Makes Scents to Dogs

Early stage lung cancers detected by trained dogs

(RxWiki News) The super sensitive noses of dogs are known to be able to pick up the scent many things. Man's best friend can now do what even advanced medical tests can't do - sniff out early stage lung cancer.

New research recently published in the European Respiratory Journal finds that trained so-called "sniffer dogs" are very reliable in the early detection of lung cancer.

"Dogs may be able to sniff out lung cancer."

Early lung cancers generally don't have symptoms and detection is often a matter of chance. 

Scientists have been trying to develop accurate screening technology that uses samples of exhaled breath to detect certain compounds called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are seen in cancer.

At this point, though, the technology hasn't become useful for a number of reasons, including the fact that VOCs in lung cancers have not yet been identified.

To evaluate if dogs could help, researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany conducted the study involving 220 people. Participants included patients with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), along with  healthy volunteers.

The dogs, which had been trained to sniff out various diseases, were asked to distinguish a number of things. Researchers found they were able to:

  • Detect lung cancer in 71 out of 100 samples
  • Detect when lung cancer was not present in 372 out of 400 cases
  • Distinguish lung cancer from COPD and tobacco smoke

Study author, Thorsten Walles from Schillerhoehe Hospital, says the study proves there is a biomarker for lung cancer and that's an important advancement in lung cancer diagnosis.

Further study is needed to identify the compounds in the patient's breath.

Walles adds that it's just too bad dogs can't talk about the exact biochemistry of cancer scents!

Review Date: 
August 19, 2011