2 Prostate Cancer Sniffing Dogs…In Italy

It is not often that we get to combine two of our favorite topics in one blog post:
Dogs in the workplace…in this case, health care…yay!

This MedCity article (originally provided by Reuters) was brought to our attention:
“Man’s Best Friend May Also Be Able to Help Detect Prostate Cancer”

Check out their first paragraph:

Highly-trained dogs are able to detect prostate cancer in urine with 98 percent accuracy, according to a study presented May 18 at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Orlando.

This article was posted last week…why hasn’t it received more attention?
If a drug or a mechanical test could detect cancer, in urine or otherwise, with 98%
accuracy, wouldn’t that garner attention on every news station? On every
social media channel?

Although it’s not a drug it is a test…by Italian German Shephards!

“This study gives us a standardized method of diagnosis that is reproducible, low cost and non-invasive,” said lead author Dr. Gianluigi Taverna, chief of the prostatic diseases unit at the Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, Italy.

“Using dogs to recognize prostate cancer might help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and better pinpoint patients at high risk for the disease,” he told Reuters Health in an email.

Researchers in Italy enrolled 902 participants and divided them into two main groups: 362 men with prostate cancer, ranging from very-low risk tumors to metastatic disease, and a control group made up of 540 men and women in generally good health or affected by other types of cancer or non-tumor related diseases. All participants provided urine samples.

During the training, 200 urine samples from the prostate cancer group and 230 samples from the control group were analyzed. The dogs were taught to recognize prostate cancer-specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the samples.

Overall, the dogs had 16 false positives and four false negatives.

Dog-detection is a technique that “needs to be combined with other, common diagnostic tools (PSA, biopsy, MRI, etc.),” Taverna said.

Taverna said his team hopes to pinpoint exactly what the dogs are picking up on. “We want to expand on our current study by converting the chemicals detected by the dogs into gas chromatography-mass spectrometry so the process can be duplicated by machine. “

While humans have roughly five million olfactory cells (receptors that detect different odors) in their noses, dogs have about 200 million. For years, law enforcement and the military have used dogs to help locate bombs, drugs and missing people.

Recent studies have shown that dogs can also alert people to epileptic and diabetic seizures (the latter reportedly through the smell of breath or sweat).

Researchers have also been testing dogs’ ability to detect melanoma, as well as breast, lung, bladder and ovarian cancer. One study showed that dogs could detect ovarian cancer in tissue and blood samples; another focused on VOCs in urine for detecting bladder cancer.
So, what do you think about this study?
Are you thinking of getting your own German Shephard?
Do you think your health insurer would pay for you to participate in such a test?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or on our facebook page.
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