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A sniffer dog with a difference: the Belgian Shepherd that can detect cancer

posted 31 May 2011, 12:28 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 31 May 2011, 12:31 ]
It's a sniffer dog with a difference: a military Belgian Shepherd that has been trained to detect signs of prostate cancer in patients' urine. According to French scientists, the dog can do it far more accurately than any currently available scientific technique. Stuart McDill has more.

 BOULLAY-LES-BARRES / PARIS, FRANCE - A French army sniffer dog would normally be trained to identify explosives or drugs but Aspirant is different.

The Belgian Shepherd's handler Corporal Anthony Fremont, says the dog is now as adept at identifying prostate cancer as it is contraband.


 

CORPORAL ANTHONY FREMONT, ARMY DOG HANDLER SAYING:

"At first we thought it was a joke. But we inquired a little bit when we heard the news, and we found out that similar experiments had been conducted abroad, in the United States in this case."

The French version of the idea began in a laboratory in Paris where Olivier Cussenot researches urinology at the Tenon Hopital.


Knowing that dogs' sense of smell is roughly 200,000 times better than a human's, he hopes to develop an accurate automated test for a form of cancer that is notoriously difficult to track.

PROFESSOR OLIVIER CUSSENOT, PROSTATE CANCER SPECIALIST SAYING:

"The ultimate goal would be to be able to determine that a particular smell represents a particular cancer which would allow a machine to do the same job. In that case, you could standardized the task enough to establish a diagnostic test."


And Aspirant has proven that it might be possible.

In tests, he identified hidden samples of urine from patients with and without prostate cancer.

The dog correctly identified 63 of 66 samples from cancer sufferers and even one from a donor who did not know he had the disease.


 PROFESSOR OLIVIER CUSSENOT, PROSTATE CANCER SPECIALIST SAYING:

"If he sits near the sample, that's the way he says that the sample is positive. And we will then consider that this person's urine contains cancer cells, or at least contains molecules linked to prostate cancer."

The World Health Organisation says around 250,00 lives a year are lost to prostate cancer and the researchers hope Aspirant's nose can sniff out a way to get that number down.


Stuart McDill, Reuters

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