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Lung cancer can be detected by sniffer dogs

18th August 2011

Researchers have suggested that sniffer dogs can be used to detect lung cancer.

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Scientists found that trained dogs could detect a tumour in 71% of patients, although they remain unsure which specific chemical the dogs were detecting.

Dr Laura McCallum, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Although there are now some intriguing studies suggesting that dogs may be able to smell cancer in some situations, we're still a long way from understanding exactly which 'smelly molecules' they are detecting and if these studies are accurate.

“Because it would be extremely difficult to use dogs in the clinic, further research is being carried out to learn more about these molecules that are released from tumours and whether devices such as 'electronic noses' could help sniff them out.”

The research, conducted at Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany and published in the European Respiratory Journal, used two German shepherds, an Australian shepherd and a Labrador to detect lung cancer.

Three groups of patients were tested: 110 healthy people, 60 with lung cancer and 50 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a narrowing of the airways of the lungs.

After they breathed into a fleece filled tube, which absorbed any smells, the dogs sniffed the tubes and sat down in front of those in which they detected lung cancer smells.

Researcher Dr Thorsten Walles said: “In the breath of patients with lung cancer, there are likely to be different chemicals to normal breath samples and the dogs' keen sense of smell can detect this difference at an early stage of the disease.”

 

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