ORLANDO, Fla. — Detecting cancer as early as possible is paramount to a successful treatment, and now scientists say that man’s best friend may be paramount to accurate, early detection. A new study finds that dogs can sniff out cancer in blood with almost 97 percent accuracy.
Researchers from BioScentDx, a private health care company in Florida that offers canine scent-based cancer detection, say their findings show that cancer-screening can be both low-cost and minimally-invasive for patients.
“Although there is currently no cure for cancer, early detection offers the best hope of survival,” says co-author Heather Junqueira, the lead researcher at BioScentDx, in a media release. “A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated.”
Junqueira tested four beagles trained by the company to detect the difference in scent between blood samples from healthy patients and blood samples from patients with lung cancer. While one of the dogs wouldn’t perform the test, the other three correctly identified the lung cancer samples 96.7 percent of the time, and the normal samples 97.5 percent of the time.
In addition to training the dogs to detect cancer in blood, BioScentDx also offers a service where their dogs can accurately smell cancer in a person’s breath from a surgical mask sent in by patients.
“This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools,” says Junqueira. “One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds.”
BioScentDx began a study in November in which breast cancer patients donate breath samples to train the dogs for detection.
Junqueira will present the findings of this latest study at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology in Orlando.