Dog sniffs out thyroid cancer
A dog working with researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is able to use his sense of smell to identify thyroid cancer in people who had not yet been diagnosed, according to a report at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society over the weekend.
Because dogs have 10 times the number of smell receptors as humans, it's believed that they are able to detect the unique smell emitted by cancer molecules. Previous research has found promising results in using dogs to detect bowel and lung cancers.
To conduct their study, the Arkansas team trained a German Shepherd named Frankie to lie down when he could smell thyroid cancer in a sample and turn away if the urine was clean. Frankie gave the correct diagnosis in 30 out of 34 cases; there were two false positives and two patients who would have been incorrectly given negative results.
Some researchers argue that it’s not practical to use dogs as diagnostic tools on a wide scale, but others point out that it’s much less invasive than other biopsy techniques. Also, some researchers have begun to focus on developing an "electronic nose" that could have the same sensitivity to the smell of cancer cells as a dog's.