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Dogs can sniff out lung cancer with nearly 97 per cent accuracy © Getty Images

Dogs can sniff out lung cancer with nearly 97 per cent accuracy

Published: 30th April, 2019 at 08:00
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What’s up, dog? Our faithful friends can be trained to smell lung cancer in blood samples.

We all know that dogs are great for companionship and encouraging us to get off the settee to go for a walk, but here’s yet another reason to love them. According to recent research, man’s best friend is capable of sniffing out cancer in blood samples.

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For the study, which was carried out by Florida-based research company BioScentDx, four beagles were taught to use their sense of smell to distinguish between the blood of healthy people and the blood of patients with malignant lung cancer. After training, three of the dogs successfully identified lung cancer samples 96.7 per cent of the time, and normal samples 97.5 per cent of the time. The fourth dog, Snuggles, did not have any interest in performing (we forgive you, Snuggles).

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“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,” said Heather Junqueira, who led the research. “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.”

Early detection of cancer offers patients the best hope for survival, and sensitive, cost-effective tests could help save many lives. BioScentDx wants to use dogs to create non-invasive ways of screening for cancer and other diseases. Late last year, the company launched a study in which breast cancer patients submitted samples of their breath for screening by the detection dogs.

Dogs’ smell receptors are around 10,000 times more accurate than ours, which means they can detect scents that are simply imperceptible to us. Of all the dog breeds, beagles have some of the best noses, which means they’re pawsitively (sorry) brilliant at sniffing out diseases, as well as prohibited substances and explosives.

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Authors

Alice Lipscombe-SouthwellManaging editor, BBC Science Focus

Alice is the managing editor at BBC Science Focus Magazine. She has a BSc in zoology with marine zoology. Her interests include natural history, wildlife, the outdoors, health and fitness.

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