A study showed dogs can accurately sniff out cancer in blood, which may lead to new cancer-screening approaches that are inexpensive and without being invasive.
The study presented on Monday at the ongoing American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting in Orlando showed that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 percent accuracy.
Dogs have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than those of humans, making them highly sensitive to odors we can't perceive, according to the study.
"A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated," said Heather Junqueira, who is lead researcher at BioScentDx.
Junqueira and her colleagues used a form of clicker training to teach four beagles to distinguish between normal blood serum and samples from patients with malignant lung cancer.
Although one beagle was unmotivated to perform, the other three dogs correctly identified lung cancer samples 96.7 percent of the time and normal samples 97.5 percent of the time, according to the study.
The researchers plan to use canine scent detection to develop a non-invasive way of screening for cancer. They also hope to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds.