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Researchers at Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany worked with specially trained dogs who were asked to smell the breath of 220 volunteers. The group included healthy patients, as well as people with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The dogs correctly identified 71 positive lung cancer samples out of a possible 100, the researchers write in the European Respiratory Journal. They also correctly identified 372 non-cancerous samples out of a possible 400.
What’s interesting about this is that the dogs were able to detect cancer even in the presence of other factors, like tobacco smoke and COPD. Current lab tests for lung cancer can't do this. This suggests that there is indeed a VOC associated directly with lung cancer, which can be detected — at least by a dog — even in the presence of other compounds.
VOCs are emitted from the surface of cells as they undergo tumor-induced gene and protein changes. Identifying the VOCs that certain cells make can go a long way toward early diagnosis, when a scan might not be able to detect anything.
But as we’ve seen before, sometimes dogs are simply the best sniffing technology out there. The Defense Department figured this out after spending billions of dollars Source on research. This new study suggests that doctors may be learning the same thing.
Lung cancer is the second most frequent form of cancer in men and women across Europe with over 340,000 deaths per year. It is also the most common cause of death from cancer worldwide.
The disease is not strongly associated with any symptoms and early detection is often by chance. Current methods of detection are unreliable and scientists have been working on using exhaled breath specimens from patients for future screening tests.
It is unfortunate that dogs cannot communicate the biochemistry of the scent of cancer!"