Scent-Trained Dog Detects Thyroid Cancer in Urine Samples; Dog’s Accuracy Only Slightly Less Than That of Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy

A trained scent dog accurately identified whether patients' urine samples had thyroid cancer or were benign (noncancerous) 88.2 percent of the time, according to a new study, presented on March 6, 2015 at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting in San Diego. "Current diagnostic procedures for thyroid cancer often yield uncertain results, leading to recurrent medical procedures and a large number of thyroid surgeries performed unnecessarily," said the study's senior investigator, Donald Bodenner, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of Endocrine Oncology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, Arkansas. "Scent-trained canines could be used by physicians to detect the presence of thyroid cancer at an early stage and to avoid surgery when unwarranted," Dr. Bodenner commented. Although Dr. Bodenner is not yet basing patient treatment decisions on the canine technique, he said the dog's diagnostic accuracy is only slightly less than that of fine-needle aspiration biopsy, the method generally used first to test thyroid nodules for cancer. Canine scent detection has the advantages of being noninvasive and inexpensive, he said. Dr. Bodenner's colleague at UAMS and a study-coauthor, Dr. Arny Ferrando, Ph.D., previously "imprinted," or scent-trained, a rescued male German Shepherd-mix named Frankie to recognize the smell of cancer in thyroid tissue obtained from multiple patients. Dr. Ferrando, who noted that dogs have at least 10 times more smell receptors than humans do, said, "Frankie is the first dog trained to differentiate benign thyroid disease from thyroid cancer by smelling a person's urine."
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