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Dogs smelling cancer in serum samples

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That dogs are world-class sniffers is old news, but a recent study found a new application for their olfactory superpower: identifying cancer from blood samples.

Heather Junqueira, Senior Researcher at BioScent Dx, taught four beagles a form of clicker training to distinguish between normal blood serum – a clear, yellowish liquid that is separated from clotted blood and contains no white or red blood cells – and serum samples from individuals, she was diagnosed with malignant lung cancer.


One of the dogs – a cutie named Snuggles – declined to participate, but the other three correctly identified samples from lung cancer patients almost 97 percent of the time. Their success rate in identifying cancer-free people was 97.5 percent.

Using dogs as detectors, scientists at Florida-based research and development company BioScent Dx are working to develop a non-invasive method of screening for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. This study suggests that they may be doing something.

As quoted in an article in Science DailyJunqueira identified a twofold path in the search for new cancer detection tools:

“One is using dog odor detection as a screening method for cancer, the other is to determine the biological compounds found by dogs and then develop cancer screening tests based on those compounds.”

Junqueira presented the research at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s annual meeting earlier this month.



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