A new study presented this week at the 2019 Experimental Biology conference in Orlando, Fla., reveals that blood-sniffing dogs may become the latest frontier in cancer detection. Thanks to their unfathomably keen sense of smell — which is 10,000 times more accurate than a human’s — dogs in the lab were able to pick-out blood samples from cancer patients with 97 percent accuracy.
The results could lead to canine detection as a low-cost, non-invasive approach to cancer screening and perhaps other diseases, says Heather Junqueira, lead researcher on the study.
“Although there is currently no cure for cancer, early detection offers the best hope of survival,” Junqueria says. “A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated.”
Janqueira and her team taught four beagles to distinguish between healthy blood samples and those from patients with malignant lung cancer. While one beagle named Snuggles was not interested in playing doctor, the other three dogs were able to identify cancerous samples 96.7 percent of the time.
BioScentDx, the lab where the study was performed, are currently testing whether the dogs can smell cancer in the breath of breast cancer patients. Researchers also plan to isolate the chemical compounds in samples and find out exactly where the odor originates.