Dogs can help fight two of the most deadly types of cancer — breast and lung cancer — detecting it in exhaled breath.
A study conducted at the Pine Street Foundation, a non-profit cancer education and research group in San Anselmo, Calif., had such good results that a new research, related with ovarian cancer, is currently being done. The methodology is similar as are the breeds used.
Nicholas Broffman, executive director of the Pine Street Foundation, alerts: “Should your best friend display a persistent and animated behaviour around a person, we do recommend medical follow-up.”
Here Broffman answers questions about his studies:
Q. How were the reactions to your study in the medical community?
A. The medical community is always looking for ways to improve accuracy and find methods that can detect cancer at its earliest stages. Other researchers around the world are now working on the early detection of disease through scent and biological biomarkers.
Q. After your successful studies, should we worry if our pets insist on smelling our neck or breath?
A. Numerous anecdotal reports have been published and televised documenting individual cases in which dogs began to display persistent and animated behaviour around specific body locations on their owners. These behaviours, on subsequent medical evaluation, proved to be accurate, and in some cases life-saving, early warning signs of cancers such as those of the breast and skin (melanoma). Therefore, should your dog display such behaviour around a person, we do recommend medical follow-up.
Q. Do you think your studies can lead to a future scent detection system in clinical practice, alongside mammograms, for instance?
A. Our research will lead to the development of new diagnostic tools that can be used along currently accepted screening methods, such as mammogram and CT scans.
Q. Will dogs one day detect cancer even earlier than standard screening tests?
A. The specificity and the sensitivity of the dogs involved in our 2006 study exceeded several currently accepted screening methods.