Newswire (Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 1:05:00 PM CST, Received: Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 1:05:03 PM CST)
Word Count: 1237
Observations dating back to the mid-2000s have shown that dogs can accurately sniff out early prostate and other cancers with impressive accuracy, but researchers have not known exactly what elements of scent the dogs were detecting and how they were processing the information. In a new paper published today in PLOS ONE, for the first time researchers combined three approaches – canine olfaction detection, artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted chemical analysis of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in urine samples, and microbial analysis of the same urine samples of men who underwent biopsy for suspected prostate cancer.
A four-year-old Labrador and a seven-year-old Vizsla were trained to detect the odor of prostate cancer in urine samples collected from patients with the disease, including Gleason 9 prostate cancer – the most lethal tumors that would benefit the most from early detection.
Results showed the dogs' olfaction system was 71 percent sensitive – the rate at which the dogs correctly identified positive samples – and 70-76% specific – the rate at which the dogs correctly ignored negative samples including those with other diseases – when detecting Gleason 9 prostate cancer from blinded samples. The dogs also correctly identified when 73% of blinded patient samples did not have the disease. This compares favorably to the most commonly used prostate cancer test, the PSA blood test, and demonstrates how a new screening tool based on the dog's nose could support the PSA test and improve early diagnosis, leading to better health outcomes and saving lives.
This is the first truly controlled study – both human researchers and dogs were double-blinded on which samples were from cancer patients versus otherwise healthy patients. The findings demonstrate that canines can be trained to detect the most aggressive and lethal form of prostate cancer from the VOCs. While previous studies using analytical techniques such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify individual molecules performed well under tightly controlled laboratory conditions, this new work takes into account the dynamically changing background odor environment of the real world. Identification of the molecules in the odor could lead to the development of an artificial dog nose that detects prostate cancer in urine in much the same way biosensing machines known as machine olfactors are beginning to learn from the way trained dogs sniff out drugs and explosives, which also have unique molecular odorant signatures.
"One of the main points of this work is that the dogs aren't just detecting prostate cancer, they are detecting the most lethal prostate cancers – those that would benefit the most from early detection. Results could now lead to the future development of a more sensitive and specific prostate cancer diagnostic beyond the current PSA test," said
"Imagine a day when smartphones can send an alert for potentially being at risk for highly aggressive prostate cancer, years before a doctor notices a rise in PSA levels. The incredible work of these dogs is critical as we advance this program to develop an improved method of early prostate cancer diagnosis. Equally important is that men can be citizen scientists and contribute to the bio bank that will help us eventually solve this problem that is urgently needed. Once we have built the machine nose for prostate cancer, it will be completely scalable to other diseases," added Dr. Andreas Mershin, physicist and research scientist,
Other study contributors included:
This work was supported by a
About Medical Detection Dogs
Medical Detection Dogs is the world-leading organisation for research into canine olfactory diagnostics. We train dogs to detect the odour of disease with the aim of developing faster, more efficient and less invasive diagnostics that lead to better patient outcomes. Our Bio Detection research includes cancer, neurological disease and bacterial infections and has the potential to benefit millions. We already apply what we know about the science of canine olfaction to benefit people by training Medical Alert Assistance Dogs, which help individuals manage complex, life-threatening medical conditions. www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk
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