Dogs ‘can sniff out cancer in stool’

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

MELBOURNE - Japanese scientists claim that a Labrador can detect bowel cancer in breath and stool samples with remarkable accuracy.

The research team, led by Hideto Sonoda at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, says that the findings support hopes for an ‘electronic nose’ that could one day sniff a tumour at its earliest stages, reports ABC Science.

As part of the study, they used a 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, including samples from smokers or from subjects with other types of gut problems, which might have masked or interfered with other smells, but these did not interfere with the dog’s olfactory accuracy.

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

Six per cent of the breath samples, and 10 per cent of the stool samples, came from people with other gut problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, diverticulitis, and appendicitis.

In the study, the retriever performed as well as a colonoscopy, 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 per cent accuracy, and in 37 out of 38 stool tests (98 per cent accuracy).

It performed especially well among people with early stage disease.

The researchers say that this study shows that cancer cells give off specific discernible odours as they circulate through the body.

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

The study has been presented in the Gut, a British Medical Journal publication. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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