Dogs detect breast cancer from bandage: researchers

March 24, 2017
A Female German Shepherd. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

Dogs can sniff out cancer from a piece of cloth which had touched the breast of a woman with a tumour, researchers said Friday, announcing the results of an unusual, but promising, diagnostic trial.

With just six months of training, a pair of German Shepherds became 100-percent accurate in their new role as breast spotters, the team said.

The technique is simple, non-invasive and cheap, and may revolutionise cancer detection in countries where mammograms are hard to come by.

"In these countries, there are oncologists, there are surgeons, but in rural areas often there is limited access to diagnostics," Isabelle Fromantin, who leads project Kdog, told journalists in Paris.

This means that "people arrive too late," to receive life-saving treatment, she added. "If this works, we can roll it out rapidly."

Working on the assumption that have a distinguishing smell which sensitive dog noses will pick up, the team collected samples from 31 cancer patients.

These were pieces of bandage that patients had held against their affected breast.

With the help of canine specialist Jacky Experton, the team trained German Shepherds Thor and Nykios to recognise cancerous rags from non-cancerous ones.

"It is all based on game-playing" and reward, he explained.

After six months, the were put to the test over several days in January and February this year.

This time, the researchers used 31 bandages from different cancer patients than those the dogs had been trained on.

One bandage was used per experiment, along with three samples from women with no cancer.

Saving lives

Each bandage was placed in a box with a large cone which the dogs could stick their noses into, sniffing at each in turn—four boxes per test.

The exercise was repeated once with each sample, meaning there were 62 individual responses from the dogs in all.

In the first round, the dogs detected 28 out of the 31 cancerous bandages—a 90-percent pass rate, the researchers announced.

On the second try, they scored 100 percent—sitting down in front of the box containing the cancerous sample with their muzzle pressed deep into the cone.

"There is technology that works very well, but sometimes simpler things, more obvious things, can also help," said Amaury Martin of the Curie Institute, citing the many untested stories of dogs having detected cancer in their owners.

"Our aim was see if we can move from conventional wisdom to... real science, with all the clinical and research validation that this entails."

This was the proof-of-concept phase of Kdog.

The next step will be a clinical trial with more patients and another two dogs, but the team is still in need of project funding.

The team believes that one day dogs may be replaced by "sniffing" machines, possibly armies of electronic diagnosticians dedicated to analysing samples that people far from clinics would send them by the post.

In the meantime, Experton said there is little danger of the trained dogs using their new-found skills to accost cancer sufferers outside the lab.

"These tests happen within a very specific work environment," he explained. "In a different context, these dogs are unlikely to simply pounce on random people in the street."

The team says it is the only one to work with from skin-touch samples.

Other research projects are testing canines' ability to smell different types of cancer in samples of the skin itself, blood or urine, even the air people exhale.

In France, the chances of surviving ten years after a diagnosis is about 85 percent, compared to around 50 percent in poorer countries.

Explore further: Dogs being used to sniff out cancer diagnoses

Related Stories

Dogs being used to sniff out cancer diagnoses

March 24, 2015
Man's best friend may have just graduated to oncologist's best colleague.

Dogs sniff out chemicals linked to prostate cancer

April 17, 2015
Researchers in Italy have published a study suggesting that trained dogs can detect chemicals linked to prostate cancer from urine samples.

Dogs may help spot human prostate cancers, study finds

May 18, 2014
(HealthDay)—Dogs can be trained to sniff out evidence of prostate cancer in human urine with near-perfect accuracy, Italian researchers report.

Dogs can sniff out lung cancer, pilot study shows

December 5, 2012
Dogs are surprisingly adept at sniffing out lung cancer, results from a pilot project in Austria published on Wednesday suggested, potentially offering hope for earlier, life-saving diagnosis.

Recommended for you

Alternative splicing, an important mechanism for cancer

September 22, 2017
Cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, arises from the disruption of essential mechanisms of the normal cell life cycle, such as replication control, DNA repair and cell death. Thanks to the advances ...

'Labyrinth' chip could help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells

September 21, 2017
Inspired by the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, a new chip etched with fluid channels sends blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze to separate out rare circulating cancer cells into a relatively clean stream for analysis. ...

Drug combination may improve impact of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer

September 21, 2017
Checkpoint inhibitor-based immunotherapy has been shown to be very effective in recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer but only in a minority of patients. University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers ...

Whole food diet may help prevent colon cancer, other chronic conditions

September 21, 2017
A diet that includes plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits may contain compounds that can stop colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases in pigs, according to an international team of researchers. Understanding how ...

New kinase detection method helps identify targets for developing cancer drugs

September 21, 2017
Purdue University researchers have developed a high-throughput method for matching kinases to the proteins they phosphorylate, speeding the ability to identify multiple potential cancer drug targets.

Poliovirus therapy induces immune responses against cancer

September 20, 2017
An investigational therapy using modified poliovirus to attack cancer tumors appears to unleash the body's own capacity to fight malignancies by activating an inflammation process that counter's the ability of cancer cells ...

5 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

FredJose
not rated yet Mar 24, 2017
The obvious solution to the lack of funds is crowd funding or kick starter funding.
Once the need for funds for this kind of research is officially put on the net, I can guarantee that they'll have $100m in no time at all. Everybody wants progress in this field.
KBK
1 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2017
Muslims will probably refuse to be neared or diagnosed by the given 'dirty animal'.
RZ49
not rated yet Mar 24, 2017
Dogs will also sense their own illness and most likely have a good knowledge about when the time to die has come, they will be prepared.
koitsu
5 / 5 (1) Mar 25, 2017
This will never, ever be cleared by the FDA or its counterparts in other "advanced" countries. The reason is that there would be FAR too much money to be lost on diagnostics if patients were to gain sufficient faith in such inexpensive techniques.
adam_russell_9615
not rated yet Mar 26, 2017
Thats great. You need really honest doctors though. This could be abused just as easily as police sometimes make their drug sniffing dogs give them excuse to search a vehicle.

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.