Cancer-detecting dogs approved for NHS trial

(Records) Animals at specialist charity will undergo evaluation at Milton Keynes hospital after proving 93% effective in detecting odour of prostate tumours

Daisy at the trial test (the guardian.com)

Dogs capable of sniffing out cancer have been approved for use in a trial by the NHS.

The charity Medical Detection Dogs has gained approval from Milton Keynes University Hospital for further trials, after an initial study showed specially trained dogs can detect prostate tumours in urine in 93% of cases.

It is hoped canine testing could help show up inaccuracies in the traditional Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, used to determine if men need a biopsy. The test has a high “false positive” rate, and many men are unnecessarily referred for the invasive procedure.

Iqbal Anjum, a consultant urologist at the hospital, said the study was “an extremely exciting prospect”.

He added: “Over the years there have been many anecdotal reports suggesting that dogs may be able to detect cancer based on the tumour’s odour. It is assumed that volatile molecules associated with the tumour would be released into the person’s urine, making samples easy to collect and test.”

Medical Detection Dogs was co-founded in 2008 by Dr Claire Guest, who was the training director of the first study programme to train dogs to identify cancer in 2003.

Dr Guest’s experienced the apparent ability of dogs to sniff out the disease herself, when her dog Daisy made her aware she was suffering from breast cancer in 2009.

The normally gentle dog refused to get in the car, and began prodding Dr Guest in the chest. When she felt the patch, Dr Guest realised it was bruised. Tests revealed she had a benign tumour near the surface, and a deeper malign growth, which could have been severe if not for the early diagnosis.

Dr Guest said the incident gave her the “impetus to really believe this could be life-changing for people”.

She added: “Britain has one of the worst rates of early cancer detection in Europe. The NHS needs to be bolder about introducing new innovative methods to detect cancer in its early stages.

“Our dogs have higher rates of reliability than most of the existing tests. We know their sense of smell is extraordinary. They can detect parts per trillion - that’s the equivalent of one drop of blood in two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Source: theguardian.com

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