The dog is considered to be the best friend of the human, and because of that benevolence people like it a lot and keep it for a pet. Dogs are protectors of our homes, the best companions awaiting us eagerly at the front door, the best listeners, and so on. Aside all these characteristics dogs can offer even more.
Any dog owner is aware of dogs’ ability to sense when something is wrong. These animals have been proven to have the ability to pick up the scent of Parkinson’s disease and high blood sugar levels that could pose a great threat for the diabetic person. Their nose is used in police and border actions for detecting illegal narcotics.
Yet, in terms of diseases the latest research reveals that dogs can even detect the deadliest disease on the planet, cancer.
This latest breakthrough was revealed at the 2019 annual meeting for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Orlando, Florida. This study showed how dogs can pick up on cancerous blood samples. It is all based on the use of the smell as dogs have smell receptors that are 10,000 times more accurate than humans’, making them highly sensitive to odors that we cannot even catch. The brain of a dog is controlled by the smell or olfactory cortex that makes it about 40 times larger than ours. Plus, there is the existence of the olfactory bulb in a dog that has plenty of smell-sensitive receptors, ranging between 125 – 220 million, that makes it a hundred thousand to a million times more reactive than that of humans. All these properties allow picking up scents of diseases that a normal human being cannot. Namely, in a lab, a trained dog can pick out cancerous blood samples from patients with almost 97% accuracy.
Heather Junqueira, the lead researcher of this study maintains that these findings could be a new way of determining cancer cells. The canine scent detection could be the basis of a new screening method for cancers and this ability could determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and thus design cancer-screening tests based on them.
Junqueira along with her team at BioScentDx taught four beagles how to distinguish between healthy blood samples and malignant lung cancer in patients. All three dogs identified the samples at an accuracy of 96.7%, except for the one dog that was not cooperative.
Her research goes further, training dogs to smell cancer in the breath condensate of breast cancer patients. She came to the conclusion that dogs can detect pre-cancerous cells, the ones that are at stage 0-1.
The researchers used 26 dogs that sensed general cancer types, but they also trained dogs to detect specific tumor types like breast and lung cancer. The researchers plan to use them for detecting prostate, colorectal and melanoma cancer as well.
Early detection of cancer significantly increases the chances of survival. Therefore, we should invest in finding new methods that are viable and affordable in early detection of cancer.
Heather believes that a highly sensitive test like the one that the canine scent can offer could be a potential way of saving thousands of lives and thus changing the way how this disease is being treated.
However, Heather is emphasizing these screenings cannot replace a preventative visit to a medical expert.