Added by Annika L. Krugel on February 2, 2011
Researchers in Japan have used dogs to detect the early stages of bowel cancer, BBC said on Tuesday.
The study, led by researchers at Kyushu University, used Marine, an eight-year-old black Labrador, to sniff out bowel cancer from breath and stool samples.
The results, published in the journal Gut, showed that Marine was able to pick out the one breath sample, out of five, from a cancer patient 33 out of 36 times.
For stool samples, the rate of success was even higher; 37 out of 38 cancers were detected.
Early bowel cancers are reported to be notoriously difficult to detect; the NHS screening programme in the UK tests for blood in faeces, but it is believed that only one in 10 early cases are detected.
Dogs are thought to be able to detect the distinct smell of a tumour, in for instance skin, bladder, lung, ovarian, and breast cancers.
Dr Hideto Sonoda, at Kyushu University, said about the study: “The specific cancer scent indeed exists, but the chemical compounds are not clear. Only the dog knows the true answer.”
Cancer Research UK said it would be very difficult to use dogs for routine testing, and that it is therefore necessary for scientists to try to identify the smells – the cancer specific organic compounds – detected by dogs to be able to develop an alternative early detection test.
More than 16,000 people in the UK die from bowel cancer every year.