Dogs trained to detect ovarian cancer
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are working on a new method for detecting ovarian cancer—they’re training dogs to sniff it out. Dogs are able to smell volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are odorants that are altered in early stages of ovarian cancer. The scientists also used chemical and nanotechnology in conjunction with the dogs to parse out and confirm the odorants.
For the study, researchers are using donated tissue and blood samples from women with and without ovarian cancer. Three dogs are being trained to sniff out the odorants that are present when a woman has ovarian cancer – a springer spaniel, a Labrador retriever and a German shepherd. Researchers say there is no effective screening strategy for ovarian cancer today, and point out that any advancement in diagnosis could have a positive impact in helping women survive the disease.
In the U.S., ovarian cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers in women, and mainly develops in women over age 63. According to the American Cancer Society, 22,240 more women are diagnosed every year, and 14,230 will die from the disease every year.
Future studies will be needed to determine the best tissue for analysis and to measure odor differences between tumor grades.