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Could Dogs Be the Secret to Early Cancer Detection?

New research shows that canine smell receptors can pick up cancerous cells in human blood in addition to other common diseases and health issues.

Associate Editor
beagle
Photography by: Dan Steel / Getty

Scientists have discovered a breakthrough that could lead to earlier lung cancer diagnosis. According to a new study conducted by BioScentDx firm researchers, a group of beagles were able to identify 96.7 percent of lung cancer cells in blood samples from human subjects, while maintaining a 97 percent success rate of identifying healthy blood samples in a separate control group.

 

You may already be familiar with the fact that dogs have one of the most advanced senses of smell—their smell receptors are 10,000 times more accurate than humans, making them highly sensitive to scents that humans could never perceive. While dogs are commonly used to sniff out illicit items in law enforcement and troublesome allergens for special needs owners, previous research has found that dogs can correctly identify the scent of Parkinson's disease and can tell when diabetics are suffering from dangerously low blood sugar levels.


RELATED: Research Proves Dogs Mimic the Personality of Their Owners

 

The fact that dogs are able to sniff out cancerous cells in the bloodstream is a new discovery, however: The study, which included four dogs in trials, used a form of clicker training to teach these dogs how to distinguish between normal blood and blood with malignant lung cancer. Only one of the dogs, who goes by the name Snuggles, didn't feel like participating, but the other three dogs then correctly identified lung cancer samples in a series of tests.

 

"Although there is currently no cure for cancer, early detection offers the best hope of survival," Heather Junqueira, the lead researcher at BioScentDx, told The Telegraph"A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated."

 

Researchers hope to use canine scent detection to develop a new way of screening for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. They've launched a new study targeting breast cancer last November, and they hope to recreate similar results once more. Junqueira and her team will present the study at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual symposium during the 2019 Experimental Biology convention later this week.