Take a bow-wow: dogs fight bowel cancer

January 31, 2011

Japanese researchers on Monday reported a "lab" breakthrough: a retriever which can scent bowel cancer in breath and stool samples as accurately as hi-tech diagnostic tools.

The findings support hopes for an "" one day that can sniff a tumour at its earliest stages, they said.

Researchers led by Hideto Sonoda at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, used the specially-trained female black labrador to carry out 74 "sniff tests" over a period of several months.

Each of the tests comprised five breath or stool samples, only one of which was cancerous.

The samples came from 48 people with confirmed bowel cancer at various stages of the disease and 258 volunteers with no bowel cancer or who had had cancer in the past.

They complicated the task for the eight-year-old canine detective by adding a few challenges to the samples.

Around half of the non-cancer samples came from people with , which are benign but are also a possible precursor of bowel cancer.

Six percent of the breath samples, and 10 percent of the stool samples, came from people with other gut problems, such as , ulcers, diverticulitis, and appendicitis.

The retriever performed as well as a , a technique in which a fibre-optic tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the rectum to look for suspect areas of the intestine.

It correctly spotted which samples were cancerous and which were not in 33 out of 36 breath tests, equal to 95 percent accuracy, and in 37 out of 38 stool tests (98 percent accuracy).

It performed especially well among people with early stage disease, and its skills were not disrupted by samples from people with other types of gut problems.

Previous research has also found that dogs can sniff out bladder, lung, ovarian and .

Using dogs as a is likely to be expensive.

But the success of this experiment backs hopes for developing a sensor that can detect specific compounds, in faecal material or the air, that are linked to cancer.

There is already a non-invasive method for screening for , which looks for telltale traces of blood in a stool sample. But it is only about 10 percent accurate in detecting early-stage disease.

The dog used in the Japanese experiment was initially trained for water rescue in 2003 and then began training as a cancer detector in 2005.

Every time she correctly distinguished a cancer sample, she was allowed to play with a tennis ball.

Explore further: Colour sensor breath test can detect lung cancer

Related Stories

Advance in bowel cancer test research

June 4, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Australian researchers have developed gene expression biomarkers which can accurately discriminate pre-cancerous and cancerous colorectal growths from non-cancerous controls.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jan 31, 2011
See, more proof that a proposal I made here a while back is totally feasible.

In order to help Obama force the cost curve in health care down, we just train that same dog to also smell explosives, and then add them at all the airport security checkpoints. We can then combine all the junk fondling with prostate and gyno exams, while we use the nudie cams to look for breast cancer, thereby helping to catch all sorts of stuff in their early stages without expensive doctor visits and hospital testing. Heck, just give the TSA employees another couple weeks of on-the-job training. They're union professionals after all.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.