Dogs have smell receptors that are around 10,000 times more sensitive than humans – meaning they can often detect smells unperceivable to humans – and even sniff out smells that are years old. But now canines have been shown to be able to detect cancerous cells in humans – with the astonishing technique having an average of 97 percent accuracy.
As a result, researchers hunting a cure for cancer are looking to find the compounds that dogs smell in order to develop new cancer screening tests.
The beagles sniffed out cancer up to 18 months before medical testing methods.
Scientist and study leader Heather Junqueira trained three beagle pups to detect lung cancer in blood samples.
The canines identified cancerous cells in 96.7 percent of cases, while they also detected cancer-free samples an astonishing 97.7 percent.
They were then trained to sniff out breast cancer, with researchers saying bowel and prostate cancer is next
Mrs Junqueira, who leads the team at US-based firm BioScentDx, trained the beagle’s using a form of clicker training to teach them to distinguish between normal blood and samples from lung cancer patients.
The researcher presented the findings to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) in Florida on Monday.
Ms Junqueira said: “Early detection offers the best hope of survival. A highly sensitive test could save thousands of lives.
“It is very exciting as it paves the way for further research which could lead to new cancer-detection tools.
“One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds.”
Until the work of Bio Scent Dx was revealed this week, studies proved largely inconclusive
The team at BioScentDx are also hoping to find out which chemicals are behind the signature scent.
It would mean people could be screened using “artificial nose” technology as well as by faithful hounds.