Cancer-sniffing dogs have 100% success rate

Dog with black face and ears and brown body - Malinois
Malinois dogs are used as they have keen noses

First clinical tests on using sniffer dogs to detect breast cancer have had a 100% success rate and are now to be expanded.

The tests in France could mean that in future women would not need to undergo mammographies, which can be uncomfortable and which require expensive equipment not available in developing countries.

The clinical trials are being carried out by Lyon dog trainer Jacky Experton and the Institut Curie of Paris and are codenamed Kdog. 

Mr Experton told Connexion: "The results are 100% accurate."

"The two Belgian Malinois I've trained, Thor and Nikios, have never been wrong. But it's a clinical trial; the method is being tested as thoroughly as any other medical procedure; so that's just the beginning."

Dogs can smell cancer, even at an early stage, on samples of clothing worn by women.

Mr Experton, the head of ITDC in Lyon and Limoges, has developed a procedure where a woman wears a small sample of cloth inside her bra, and this cloth sample is then sent for testing.

The cloth samples are presented to the dogs in sterile dishes and then identify any that have a smell of cancer. The dogs treat the job of identifying the correct dishes an enjoyable game.

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So far, the tests being carried out at Magnac-Laval (Haute-Vienne) have seen 130 volunteers tested for breast cancer using this method, with 100% success.

"The next stage is to repeat the whole experiment with two more dogs of different breeds, trained by someone else, added to the team, to check that it's not a fluke, not just my dogs, not just this breed.”

Mr Experton added: “And the next trial will involve 1,000 volunteer women.”

Training dogs to detect cancer is non-invasive for women, and cheaper than buying a mammography machine.

If the trials, set to be completed by the end of the decade, are successful and dogs become widely used, then even women in developing countries will have access to screening as sample cloths can be posted to wherever the dogs are based.

Current clinical trials are focused solely on breast cancer but once the screening method is clinically validated, the Institut Curie envisages repeating the trials for other hard-to-detect tumours such as ovarian cancer.

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