Three beagles successfully showed they are capable of identifying lung cancer by scent, a first step in identifying specific biomarkers for the disease. Researchers say the dogs' abilities may lead to development of effective, safe, and inexpensive means for mass cancer screening. After eight weeks of training, the beagles--chosen for their superior olfactory receptor genes--were able to distinguish between blood serum samples taken from patients with malignant lung cancer and healthy controls with 97% accuracy. The double-blind study was published online on June 17, 2019 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. The open-access article is titled “Accuracy of Canine Scent Detection of Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer in Blood Serum.” "We're using the dogs to sort through the layers of scent until we identify the tell-tale biomarkers," says Thomas Quinn, DO, Professor at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and lead author on this study. "There is still a great deal of work ahead, but we're making good progress." The dogs were led into a room with blood serum samples at nose level. Some samples came from patients with non-small cell lung cancer; others were drawn from healthy controls. After thoroughly sniffing a sample, the dogs sat down to indicate a positive finding for cancer or moved on if none was detected. Dr. Quinn and his team are nearing completion of a second iteration of the study. This time the dogs are working to identify lung, breast, and colorectal cancer using samples of patients' breath, collected by the patient breathing into a face mask. Researchers say findings suggest the dogs are as effective detecting cancer using this method.
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