Dogs may help spot human prostate cancers, study finds

May 18, 2014 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter
Dogs may help spot human prostate cancers, study finds
With training, 2 dogs smelled urine samples and detected tumors with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

(HealthDay)—Dogs can be trained to sniff out evidence of prostate cancer in human urine with near-perfect accuracy, Italian researchers report.

Two specially trained dogs were able to detect organic chemicals released into urine by with a combined accuracy rate of 98 percent, according to findings scheduled for presentation on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Orlando, Fla.

"With our study, we have demonstrated that the use of dogs might represent in the future a real clinical opportunity if used together with common diagnostic tools," such as the prostate cancer blood test called PSA, biopsy and imaging scans, said Dr. Gianluigi Taverna, a researcher with Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan.

The research team trained and tested the dogs using urine samples taken from 677 people, including 320 prostate cancer patients and 357 healthy individuals. The prostate cancer patients ran the gamut from men with very low-risk tumors up to men whose cancer had spread to other organs.
Researchers trained the two dogs using hundreds of urine samples taken from both healthy people and those with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer tumors produce chemicals called volatile organic compounds, which easily evaporate into the air and produce a scent that can be detected by the highly sensitive canine nose.

The dogs received a reward when they caught the scent of a cancer-infected sample and sat in front of it. "Training was a full-time job for the team, who worked five days a week," Taverna said.

The dogs were then tested using a separate set of , because "dogs have an incredible memory and might simply be picking up and recalling individual scents" from the training samples, he said.

One dog proved able to accurately detect the presence of prostate cancer 98.9 percent of the time, while the other had an accuracy rating of 97.3 percent.

Taverna said the results show that canines could prove a valuable asset in diagnosing prostate cancer.

"Our standardized method is reproducible, low cost and non-invasive for the patients," he said. "The potential of using a dog for recognizing prostate cancer might reduce unnecessary prostate biopsies and pinpoint patients at high risk for prostate cancer."

Previous research has shown dogs' ability to detect cancer and other diseases. For example, a recent study found that dogs could accurately identify patients with lung cancer by smelling their breath, said Dr. Charles Ryan, an associate professor of medicine and urology at the University of California, San Francisco, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

But Ryan remains skeptical regarding the regular use of canines for cancer detection.

"I would say it's very interesting and it would be of interest to dog owners and the public, but I'm not sure how we would integrate it into the day-to-day clinical care of patients," Ryan said.

He added that bringing dogs into prostate cancer detection could be particularly problematic.

A debate currently is raging over whether prostate cancer is overdetected and overtreated, given that most men develop the cancer late in their life and end up dying of other causes. Those who are treated for prostate tumors often suffer problems such as impotence and incontinence, leading some doctors to argue that it might be better to leave undetected.

"Screening for prostate cancer is a very controversial area, and while I would like to think could solve that problem, I don't think that's a possibility," Ryan said. "That said, it's fascinating to think as a scientist these things are out there and actually exist."

Because this study's findings were presented at a meeting, they should be considered preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Electronic nose sniffs out prostate cancer using urine samples

More information: For more information on prostate cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Related Stories

Electronic nose sniffs out prostate cancer using urine samples

May 1, 2014
We may soon be able to make easy and early diagnoses of prostate cancer by smell. Investigators in Finland have established that a novel noninvasive technique can detect prostate cancer using an electronic nose. In a proof ...

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

April 18, 2014
Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...

Study finds prostate cancer tests underestimate disease in half of cases

April 11, 2014
A study published in the British Journal of Cancer suggests that tests to grade and stage prostate cancer underestimated the severity of the disease in half of men whose cancers had been classified as 'slow growing'.

New early detection test for prostate cancer: Mi-Prostate Score test improves on PSA for predicting cancer

September 26, 2013
More than 1 million men will undergo a prostate biopsy this year, but only about one-fifth of those biopsies will result in a cancer diagnosis.

Low testosterone levels may indicate worsening of disease for men with prostate cancer

May 5, 2014
For men with low-risk prostate cancer, low levels of testosterone may indicate a worsening of their disease. That's the conclusion of a new study published in BJU International. The findings may help physicians identify patients ...

Recommended for you

Scientists develop blood test that spots tumor-derived DNA in people with early-stage cancers

August 16, 2017
In a bid to detect cancers early and in a noninvasive way, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood and have used it to ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Popular immunotherapy target turns out to have a surprising buddy

August 16, 2017
The majority of current cancer immunotherapies focus on PD-L1. This well studied protein turns out to be controlled by a partner, CMTM6, a previously unexplored molecule that is now suddenly also a potential therapeutic target. ...

A metabolic treatment for pancreatic cancer?

August 15, 2017
Pancreatic cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer mortality. Its incidence is increasing in parallel with the population increase in obesity, and its five-year survival rate still hovers at just 8 to 9 percent. Research ...


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.