A Labrador can detect bowel cancer in breath and stool
samples with remarkable accuracy, claim Japanese researchers from the Kyushu University.
Scientists are of the opinion that this breakthrough could help detect a tumor at
its earliest stages. Previous studies have found that dogs can sniff bladder, lung, ovarian and breast cancer.
A specially-trained female black Labrador was used to carry out
74 'sniff tests' over few months. Each test comprised of 5 breath or stool
samples out of which only 1 sample was cancerous. Researchers complicated the
task for the 8year old canine by including samples from people with bowel
polyps (they are benign but a precursor of bowel cancer), smokers or people
with other gut problems like inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers,
diverticulitis, and appendicitis. However this did not interfere with the
olfactory accuracy of the dog. This shows that cancer cells emit specific
discernible odors while they circulate in the body.
The dog showed 95% accuracy and performed well especially among
people with early stage of cancer. Presently available non-invasive techniques
for detecting bowel cancer are more accurate at detecting cancer in later
stages. Early detection is important because surgery can cure up to 90% cases. Cure
rates drop down as the cancer advances. The authors said that using dogs as a
screening tool is impractical and expensive. But if a sensor is developed to
detect specific compounds that are linked to cancer, in fecal material or the
air it could prove to be of great help for the medical fraternity.