Highly trained dogs hold the promise of being a new tool to detect prostate cancer - cheaply, safely and with amazing accuracy, suggest a new study.
Researchers from Italy say that two former bomb-sniffing dogs used their finely tuned snouts to detect prostate cancer in urine samples with 98 percent accuracy. Their study was presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association conference in Orlando.
The study involved 362 men with prostate cancer, ranging from very-low risk tumors to more severe disease that already spread and a control group made up of 540 men and women who were either cancer-free or had other types of cancer, reports Reuters. All participants provided urine samples.
The two German Shepherds, trained to recognize prostate cancer-specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the urine samples, were tested on which samples came from prostate cancer patients and which did not.
One dog was 100 percent accurate in detecting samples from prostate cancer patients and 98 percent accuracy in eliminating samples that didn’t come from a prostate cancer patient. The other dog had a near 99 percent and 96 percent rate, respectively.
Prostate cancer is diagnosed in some 230,000 American men each year. Other researchers have been testing dogs’ ability to detect other forms of cancer, while some studies show dogs can alert people to oncoming diabetic and epileptic seizures.
Although further research is needed, study author Dr. Gianluigi Taverna of the Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, Italy, told Reuters that he believes specially trained dogs may help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and better pinpoint patients at high risk for prostate cancer.
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