Scientists have just made a cuddly new breakthrough in cancer detection. While dogs in general already have the title of “man’s best friend,” some dogs can now call themselves cancer researchers. The scientists in this new study managed to train three beagles to sniff out a couple different types of lung cancer.
This new study was released in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. The researchers proudly announced that they were able to train the dogs to identify lung cancer by its distinct smell. The end game with this study is to develop some sort of technology that could identify cancers by their smell. The technology would be modeled after these dogs that have been able to screen for cancer by its scent.
How Researchers Performed the Study
The researchers who conducted the study are from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. They decided to use beagles in their study because beagles have a particular gene in their bodies that makes their sense of smell even stronger than most dogs.
The team allowed the pups to sniff blood samples. Some of the blood samples were from healthy humans, and some were from people with lung cancer. If the dog-turned-researcher sniffed a healthy sample, they were trained to move on. If they sniffed a cancerous sample, they were trained to sit down. By the end of the study, the dogs were about 95% accurate at identifying the cancerous blood samples.
The Next Steps
Dr. Thomas Quinn, who was the director of this study, says that there is still a lot of work to be done. However, the accuracy with which the dogs detected the cancer is an important first step. The next step is to find the “biomarkers,” which are the things in the samples that indicate for sure if a person has lung cancer.
The researchers say they are going to conduct a new study based on the success of this one. The new study, however, will have the dogs sniffing breath samples instead of blood samples. The dogs will be looking for brain, lung, and colon cancers. Researchers hope that this will be another positive step towards identifying the “biomarkers.” The end goal in this is to create an easy, “do it yourself” test that people could take at home to identify cancer. Scientists say it could be similar to a pregnancy test.
Once we figure out how dogs are ahead of our technology, we might be able to get our technology to catch up. This could be very helpful in identifying cancer earlier in the process, which would give doctors a better chance to treat it. Early detection is one of the most crucial parts of cancer treatment, and the only way to do that currently is very expensive. By doing more research on how dogs can find the cancers so early on, doctors are hoping to make early cancer detection more simple, more accurate, and more cost effective. This will make cancer treatment sustainable and helpful in all areas of the population, not just the wealthy. We need to fight cancer in our society at all levels, and this study is a good first step.