Researcher Hopes to Screen Smokers with Early Stage Lung Disease in Next Research Phase
An internist and instructor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has conducted research proving that specially trained dogs can differentiate the smell of breast cancer cells from non-cancerous cells in cell cultures.
The concept of using the sniffing ability of dogs to detect cancerous cells first emerged a decade ago in an article in a medical journal about a woman who discovered she had melanoma when her dog repeatedly barked at her tumor. Other individuals have reported similar experiences.
In this initial research project, the dogs were taught to smell breast cancer cell cultures, but were also tested for their ability to recognize lung cancer and melanoma. They scored a perfect 100 percent in all cases.
The experiment consisted of two canine participants who were taught to smell and detect cell cultures originating from malignant breast cancer and to differentiate them from non-cancerous cell cultures. When the dogs were ready, they were tested for their ability to find one malignant cell culture plate located between four other noncancerous cell culture plates.
"Our research proves that dogs can smell cancer cells in vitro, and that different types of cancer share the same smell print," said Dr. Uri Yoel, a specialist in internal medicine and professor at BGU's Faculty of Health Sciences.
"In the case of lung cancer or melanoma, this did not come as a great surprise, as it made sense that the cancer could be smelled on the patient's breath or skin. Regarding other forms of the disease, like breast cancer, it was less evident. All smells leave a molecular footprint, but with something like breast cancer it was hard to understand how this worked."
The next step is to check the dogs' reaction to people with cancer. Dr. Yoel will begin by training the dogs to identify lung cancer. To do this, he will expose them to hundreds of smokers to look for those with early stage disease.
Dr. Yoel is in the process of publishing a paper on his findings.
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