The Dogs’ Capacity of Detecting Cancer Inspires Scientists to Create the “Electronic Nose”


The dogs, the bees, and the Drosophila flies are some of the beings that can best detect cancer through smelling. Scientists are hoping that, provided they manage to understand how are these animals and insects capable of making the identification, they will succeed to create an “electronic nose” to become a fast, non-invasive method for detecting cancer.

A study coordinated by Human Research Hospital of Milano, Italy, comes with proofs regarding two dogs  that could detect very accurately prostate cancer. The study was presented last week during the conference of American Urological Association of Orlando, USA. Detecting the disease in an incipient phase is essential for treating cancer, but it is not always possible. Some types of cancer, like pancreatic and ovarian cancer, don’t show symptoms until later phases.  Blood and urine tests are slow and costly, therefore they are not considered an option for the routine investigations.

Dog's_noseHowever, some animals have the sense of smell so keen allowing them to identify the organic volatile compounds (VOC) associated with some types of cancer, when they are smelling the urine or the breath of an individual (or of an animal). The dogs particularly can be trained for this purpose; when it comes to the Drosophila, some flies have been genetically modified to shine when detecting the compounds. The Italian researchers, the authors of the above mentioned study, used two German shepherds for test and investigations, the dogs being trained to detect bombs. After three months of training in order to detect cancer, the dogs “analyzed”, by sniffing, 430 urine samples, to detect prostate cancer. 200 of the samples were coming from patients who knew they  had prostate cancer, but 230 samples were for control. One of the dogs identified with a 100% accuracy the patients who had cancer, the other dog was also close, with a 98,6% accuracy. In general, dogs have 40 times more olfactory cells than human beings, it is no wonder, therefore, their smelling capacity is better than hours. These days, labs from the entire world are using animals to detect prostate, gallbladder, pulmonary, breast and ovarian cancer. The ultimate goal of all the researches is to create an electronic device to make the investigations in order to detect easily and simply the signs of cancer.


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