The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association published a double-blind study where beagles were 97% accurate at being able to distinguish between blood serum samples from patients with malignant lung cancer and healthy controls.
Researchers believe this may lead to the development of a safe, effective, and inexpensive means for mass cancer screening. The goal is to create a type of over-the-counter screening product, similar to a pregnancy test, in terms of cost, simplicity and availability.
According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide for both women and men. Thirteen percent of new cancers are a form of lung cancer, and more than 200,000 people in the United States receive a diagnosis of lung cancer annually.
The study says, that early detection provides the best opportunity for lung cancer survival; however, lung cancer is difficult to detect early because symptoms do not often appear until later stages. Current screening methods such as x-ray and computed tomographic imaging lack the sensitivity and specificity needed for effective early diagnosis. Dogs may be able to solve this problem using scent.
According to a Science Daily article, Dogs have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than humans', making them highly sensitive to odors we can't perceive. The beagles were chosen for their quality olfactory receptor genes and had 8 weeks of training.
Thomas Quinn, professor at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and lead author on this study is nearing completion of a second form of this study. But this time the dogs are working to identify lung, breast and colorectal cancer using samples of patients’ breath, collected by the patient breathing into a face mask.
The goal from this study would be to create a device that someone can breathe into and see a color change to indicate a positive or negative finding.