Cancer Detection Dogs recently gained the spotlight for their ability to accurately smell cancer in breath, blood, or other tissue samples. These unique medical detection dogs undergo specialized training to alert their handler to the presence of cancerous cells. While this branch of scent work is relatively new, using dogs to detect, locate, or verify scents has been done for thousands of years. What is BioScentDX? BioScentDX, a company specializing in using canines for cancer screening, presented the results of their recent cancer detection research and studies at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting held during the April 2019 Experimental Biology symposium. Dogs, BioScentDX says, can be trained to detect cancer from scent samples with 97% accuracy. Heather Junqueira, the lead researcher and study director at BioScentDX, says dogs offer a low-cost, minimally invasive way to screen high volumes of patients. Quicker, cheaper methods of detection allow for earlier discovery of cancer, which allows for treatment to begin during the early stages of the disease. "This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools," said Junqueira. "One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds." Dogs' Brains Specialize in Processing Scents The canine brain prioritizes scent over the other senses. Furthermore, it dedicates a whopping 40% of sensory function to processing scents and smells. This allows dogs to reliably identify and catalog millions of smells. When a trained detection dog encounters a target odor, they alert their handler so appropriate action can be taken. For some detection dogs, the target odor is drugs, explosives, or the scent of a missing person. For others, like the cancer detection dogs at BioScentDX, the target odor is cancer. There are several breeds of dogs capable of locating and identifying scent diluted to parts per trillion. Beagles, Labradors, and German Shepherds rank high among them. "Parts per trillion" looks like a single spritz of perfume in a stadium or a half teaspoon of sugar tossed into an Olympic sized swimming pool. Another way to look at parts per trillion is with time -- it's the equivalent of 1 second out of 32,000 years. BioScentDX exclusively uses Beagles for their cancer screening programs but other researchers have ran
Dogs are capable of noticing the slightest of changes in human bodies through scent — and we're just beginning to discover their capabilities. It's estimated that dogs have a sense of smell that is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours. James Walker, the former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, who's team rigorously tested dog's scenting ability explains, "if you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well." Here's an overview of how dogs can be trained to detect and assist with medical conditions. How dogs' sense of smell can assist with medical conditions Dogs are capable of noticing the slightest of changes in human bodies caused by various systems including, hormonal changes and any volatile organic compounds that our bodies release from, for example, cancer cells. The great news is that scientists and dog trainers are leaning more and more about how dogs smell and applying training techniques to sniff out and assist with medical conditions. Assisting with diabetes Dogs can be trained to help people with diabetes realize that they are experiencing blood sugar levels spiking or dropping. Scientists have discovered that human breath has a natural chemical called isoprene that rises notably when a person with type 1 diabetes is going through a period of low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. With training, dogs can alert their owners and give them time to take their insulin when they see that their blood test confirms the warning as accurate. Detection of cancer Heather Junqueira, researcher at BioScentDx conducted a study titled, "A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated." She present this research at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting. Junqueira and her team used a a type of clicker training to teach four beagles to distinguish between normal blood serum and samples from patients with malignant lung cancer. Three of the four dogs correctly identified lung cancer samples 96.7 percent of the time and normal samples 97.5 percent of the time. "This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools," Junqueira explained. "One is using canine scent
Dogs for the Deaf in Oregon has launched one of the first programs in the country to train Autism Assistance Dogs — and they were featured a few months ago on KDRV Channel 12 in Medford, Oregon. A news crew came to film Dogs for the Deaf President and CEO, Robin Dickson and Canine Instructor, Carrie Brooks in a local mall where they were introducing the program to the public.