You may recall a post I wrote about the extraordinary sense of smell many animals have that may detect the scent of various human diseases, including tuberculosis and some forms of cancer. This post-Father's Day study from Europe documents the training of a Belgian Malinois shepherd dog to sniff out prostate cancer, virtually without fail, in urine samples.
Science has been looking for more effective methods to detect malignant tumors linked to prostate cancer from benign ones to cut down on the needless tests and stress men face after receiving a positive result from a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
Prostate cancer can be detected in a male patient's urine. In fact, some molecules exude a distinctive odor, but, unfortunately, there's no scientific testing available yet that can separate the variety of odors in urine and detect prostate cancer. That's where the talented snout of this Belgian Malinois shepherd, who has already been trained to sniff out bombs and bombs, comes in.
After two years of training on urine samples to ferret out which ones did or did not have prostate cancer, this beautiful dog was given the ultimate test: Identify which one of five samples contained prostate cancer. Out of 66 tests, the dog correctly spotted the right prostate cancer specimen in all but three cases (all false positives). Interestingly, among the three false positives the dog identified, a follow-up biopsy detected the presence of prostate cancer in one of them.
How prostate cancer detection will eventually "go to the dogs," and other animals is anyone's guess. All we know for the moment is how our pets save our lives just by being them…
Image source: Wikipedia
MedicineNet.com June 1, 2010
Los Angeles Times: Booster Shots June 1, 2010
WebMD June 2, 2010
Bloomberg Businessweek June 2, 2010