by Dr. Enozia Vakil on  August 14, 2013 at 11:44 AM Health In Focus
Trained Dogs May Now Help Sniff Ovarian Cancer Cells
Medical science has achieved extraordinary feats in the last decade. However, scientists are still struggling to find better diagnostic tools and treatments for probably the most dreaded disease-cancer.

While chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery still remain the most common approaches to deal with cancer, a few natural treatment options like hydrotherapy, color therapy, diet therapy etc, have been popular among people having cancer in the early stages, which is much easier to treat.

For long, scientists have been focusing on developing a single effective early diagnostic tool for cancer, and it seems, we may soon have one.

Thanks to a new study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, we may soon be able to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages, thereby preventing its progression to a much more advanced stage, and making treatment easy.

What's actually pretty amazing about this new diagnostic tool is that it is nothing but a 4-legged canine. Yes! That's right. Turns out, dogs are effective cancer detectors when they are trained.

The researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Working Dog Center took in three dogs, and trained them to sniff out a compound that indicates the presence of ovarian cancer, by using blood and tissue samples donated by a few ovarian cancer patients.

Within just a week of training, two of the dogs 'sat down' when they found the smell they were seeking, while the third dog 'barked' when he detected the smell.

Dogs, owing to a higher density of olfactory sensors and olfactory bulbs, are actually wonderful and much more efficient detectors of smell, making them an ideal cancer detector.

Now that the dogs are able to detect ovarian cancer by just sniffing out a chemical marker, researchers will now work on developing an electronic sensor to identify the same chemical marker; which will probably be more efficient that the former detection tool.

"Because if the dogs can do it, then the question is, Can our analytical instrumentation do it? We think we can," George Preti, an organic chemist from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, which will work on developing the new tool, said, considering the prospect.

This new tool may prove to be extremely effective in helping millions of women from around the globe, who fall prey to ovarian cancer.

Statistics show that over 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and around 70 percent of these cases are identified after the disease has progressed. This is mostly because the cancer tends to remain asymptomatic in the early stages or causes generic symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation and weight gain, which often tend to be ignored. Also, most people often tend to forget getting their annual checkups done, which increases the possibility of the disease spreading.

"If we can figure out what those chemicals are, what that fingerprint of ovarian cancer is that's in the blood - or maybe even eventually in the urine or something like that - then we can have that automated test that will be less expensive and very efficient at screening those samples," Cindy Otto, director of the Working Dog Center, explained. "We're really excited about it."

A similar study was carried out in 2011 in Germany, where dogs were able to spot lung cancer correctly in almost 71 percent of patients.

"This is just the pilot study," Otto added. "We're going to get more funding. This could provide cancer screening for millions of women."

Source: Medindia

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