Dogs sniff out cancer — with an amazing hit rate | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 09.04.2019
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Science

Dogs sniff out cancer — with an amazing hit rate

That dogs can smell cancer isn't new, per se. What is new, however, is the accuracy of the animal cancer detector. According to an American study, it’s 97 percent.

Compared with dogs, the human sense of smell is pathetic: The animals smell 10,000 to 100,000 times better than we do. They can sniff out not only drugs and explosives, but also cancer. However, in previous studies, the accuracy of the animals left something to be desired.

Learn more: Don't wait for sniffer dogs to screen you for cancer

There's a new US study out that claims an amazingly high hit rate. Three beagles are said to have identified 96.7 percent of lung cancer in blood samples. The dogs detected the healthy control in 97.5 percent of the cases. Only a fourth dog in the group, Snuggles, had no desire at all for the job.

Heather Junqueira, lead scientist of the research and product development company BioScentDx, carried out the study and is enthusiastic about the Beagles' performance: "Our work paves the way for two possible research directions that can lead to new methods of cancer detection.

Watch video 07:22

Five dogs at the children's ward

One possibility is that dogs would also be given the task of examining patients for cancer in everyday medical practice. In addition, research can look for the biological components that dogs can detect in the blood of people with cancer in order to develop tests that also search for these components, says Junqueira.

BioScentDx already started a breast cancer study in November. In this case, the dogs should be able to tell whether a disease is present by the breath of the test persons. Perhaps Snuggles would like to participate this time also.

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