Friday, April 28, 2017 - Impressive results from a diagnostic trial found that a pair of specially trained German Shepherds could detect breast cancer with 100 percent accuracy. The technique is described as “simple, non-invasive and cheap” and could replace mammograms, particularly in areas where the diagnostic method is hard to come by. Project Kdog, the name the initiative goes by, has shown marked success and could stand to shake up current diagnostic practices.
The two pups, Thor and Nykios, were trained in their cancer-smelling project for six months by canine training specialist Jacky Experton. The dogs were trained to differentiate between the odors in bandages worn by breast cancer patients and those worn by healthy subjects.
After the training period, the dogs’ ability to weed out bandages worn by women with cancer was assessed. In the first round, the dogs correctly identified 28 of the 31 bandages from the cancer patients — a 90 percent success rate. During the second round, however, the dogs identified all 31 bandages with relative ease, an impressive 100 percent rate of success. A clinical trial with a larger number of participants is planned.
Thor and Nykios are not the only dogs to sniff out cancer. In 2016, Lucy the Labrador retriever-Irish water spaniel mix made headlines after being trained to detect multiple forms of cancer. Over the course of seven years, Lucy learned to sniff bladder, kidney, and prostate cancer correctly over 95 percent of the time. Lucy’s nose fairs better at cancer detection than some lab testing methods used for cancer identification.
Given that dogs have an estimated 300 million scent sensors in their noses, and an additional organ for scent that humans do not have — known as Jacobson’s organ — it comes as no surprise that they are capable of such astounding feats of scent detection. For comparison, humans have an average of just 5 million sensors in their noses. Because cancer comes with its own unique scent, from volatile organic compounds, dogs are able to be trained to sniff out cancer with ease.
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