Doctor Dog: Sniffing Out Prostate CancerPublished June 7, 2010
Medical science is going to the dogs, in a good way. According to The American Urological Association, dogs can be trained to smell prostate cancer. Dogs were trained, via the clicker method, to recognize the signature odors of prostate cancer derived cells (called volatile organic compounds or VOCs) that are present in the urine of men with prostate caner. Using five individual urine samples, only one of which was from a confirmed cancer patient, the dogs were asked to signal the cancer urine. They correctly classified 63 out of 66 specimens, which is on par with the commonly-used PSA test. "These data suggest that prostate cancer tumors may excrete certain VOCs that turn up in a patient's urine, and that this scent may be specific to prostate cancer. What we need to do now is figure out what those VOCs are and whether or not we can develop a specific test to identify them. But, don't be surprised if, in a few years, we have to call in the dogs to make a diagnosis," said Anthony Y. Smith, M.D., Public Media Committee Chair for the Meeting of the American Urological Association. The question is, if dogs can really prove to be more accurate than standard testing, and their diagnosis made with fewer invasive methods, will our doctors be padding their bills with the added cost of canine supplies needed for their upkeep? And will we be greeted at the office door with a friendly Pug wagging his tail dressed in a white coat, or am I barking up the wrong tree? What do you think? Leave a comment and share your opinion. Photo via.