Dogs 98 per cent reliable at detecting cancer


A study using almost one thousand samples carried out by Italian scientists has revealed dogs to have a reliability rate of 98 per cent in detecting prostate cancer in urine samples.

The research, published this month in the Journal of Urology, was the result of five months’ work using dogs trained to detect the cancer volatiles present in the urine of cancer patients.

The study replicates the findings of Buckinghamshire-based charity Medical Detection Dogs, which in recent exploratory training trials dogs have indicated for bladder and prostate cancer reliability rates of around 93 per cent.

Dr Claire Guest, co-founder and Director of Medical Detection Dogs, commented: “These results are spectacular. They offer us further proof that dogs have the ability to detect human cancer.

“It is particularly exciting that we have such a high success rate in the detection of prostate cancer, for which the existing tests are woefully inadequate.

“The traditional prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, although valuable, gives a false positives in three out of four cases. This means 75 per cent of men who take the initial PSA tests and receive a positive result have to undergo further invasive tests, which causes unnecessary stress and anxiety.

“The false positive rate of PSA tests has also placed a significant burden on NHS cancer care clinics, which are already hard-pressed to deliver tests to all those requiring cancer checks.

“Over the years, millions of pounds of NHS funding has been poured into the traditional test methods, and yet there has been little improvement in their reliability.

“This has caused a huge waste of resources, not to mention the distress to the impacted individuals.

“Moreover, the detection dogs provide alternative solution that yields consistently accurate results. If our detection dogs were a machine, there would be huge demand for them.

“Dogs can pick up a sent in a dilution of one to a thousand parts. Their superior smelling power well known. So why the reluctance to embrace this tested, time-old technology?”

According to Cancer Research UK, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, accounting for 25 per cent of all new cases of cancer in males. In the UK in 2011, there were 41,736 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in males.

Last month, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, in whose constituency Medical Detection Dogs is headquartered, called for cancer screening by dogs to be adopted and fully funded by the NHS.

Mr Bercow commented: “It would be good if there were a culture change in attitudes. Some people can’t quite grip the idea that dogs can do just as much to help humans as human beings themselves can do.

“The idea that there should be a hierarchy in clinical trials in favour of always human work and to the exclusion or the detriment or the lower ranking of dog-driven work is quite wrong.

“I can’t help but feel that [Medical Detection Dogs] is an incredibly deserving cause. The overheads are relatively low, it is an incredibly efficient service, it does incredibly good work and I myself can’t see why it shouldn’t be able to draw from the public services pot.

“I can’t believe this would be regarded as anything other than good value for public money spent.”