A former bomb-sniffing dog is using his astute sense of smell to sniff out cancer.
In a recent study at the University of Arkansas, a German Shepherd named Frankie smelled urine samples of patients who had already undergone biopsies for thyroid cancer. Researchers trained him to turn away if he detected the cancer...and lie down if he did not.
Out of the 34 patients who participated in the study, Frankie gave the correct response 30 times.
A dog's sense of smell is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than a human's.
They have more than 220 million receptors in their nose. We only have 5 million.
Scientists have been using dogs to try and sniff out cancer for almost a decade. In a study published in 2006, ordinary household dogs were trained to sniff out lung- and breast-cancer in a patient's breath.
A researcher involved in the study explained, "Cancer cells emit different metabolic waste products than normal cells. The differences between these metabolic products are so great that they can be detected by a dog's keen sense of smell, even in the early stages of disease."
Since the 2006 study, the idea dogs have has been used to test for skin, bladder, breast, colorectal and ovarian cancers as well.
The research team at the University of Arkansas says it plans to work with veterinarians to train other dogs to smell thyroid cancer.
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