Alternative diagnostics: German shepherds can smell breast cancer tumors

New study: German shepherds can diagnose breast cancer with their sense of smell
It has long been known that dogs have a highly sensitive sense of smell. Researchers have now found in a study that the four-legged friends can also detect breast cancer in women. Scientists believe that this method could revolutionize the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Particularly pronounced sense of smell
Dogs have a particularly strong sense of smell. That is why they are trained by the police, among others, to be explosives or drug detection dogs. The four-legged friends are also used in the medical field. Among other things, you can warn against hypoglycemia in diabetes. In addition, some of the animals are able to sniff out cancer, for example breast cancer, as French researchers now report.

Dogs smell diseases
The sense of smell of dogs is much more pronounced than that of humans. Depending on the breed, some of the animals have over 200 million olfactory cells, while humans only have five million.

Years ago, scientific studies found evidence that the four-legged friends can smell diseases with their fine nose.

For example, researchers from Austria reported that dogs can smell lung cancer. And Japanese scientists found that they can sniff out colon cancer.

A study at the Paris Curie Institute has now shown that German shepherds can detect breast cancer with their highly sensitive sense of smell with almost absolute certainty.

Two shepherd dogs trained for half a year
As the AFP news agency reports, the method is simple, inexpensive and does not require medical intervention.

According to the scientists involved, it could revolutionize the diagnosis of breast cancer, especially in areas or countries where the usual mammography is not available.

According to agency information, two shepherd dogs - Thor and Nykios - were trained for six months to sniff out the specific smell of cancer patients from dressing material that they had previously worn with direct breast contact.

The researchers are said to have been guided by numerous scientifically unaudited reports that dogs perceived their owners' cancer.

Only last fall had been reported about the case of a woman from Great Britain whose dog had sniffed out her breast tumor.

Hit rate was 100 percent
For the current study, dressing material from 31 cancer patients was collected. With the help of sheepdog expert Jacky Experton, the two four-legged friends learned to internalize the differences in smell between this material and the corresponding substances, which had been worn by women without cancer.

For the next round, the researchers again collected bandages from 31 women with cancer - albeit from those other than those in the first round. In addition, three times as many dressing materials with the smell of women without cancer were included in the study.

The dogs scored 28 correct hits in the first smell test. In the second attempt, the hit rate was one hundred percent.

Sometimes very simple means can help
According to AFP's Amaury Martin from the Curie Institute, modern technology is very efficient in many cases, "but sometimes simpler, more obvious things can help."

According to the information, the aim of the experiment was to check whether “conventional wisdom” could be converted into “real science”.

The study is now to be continued in a new clinical trial with more patients and two additional dogs. The experts assume that the animals can one day be replaced by sophisticated smell machines.

Experton believes it is unlikely that the trained dogs could rush to strangers outside the laboratory atmosphere.

As stated in the AFP report, such tests would be carried out in a "highly specific environment". Therefore, no strikes on certain smells as soon as the four-legged friends were in a different environment. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Dr. Roberta Lee - Vice Chair, Department of Integrative Medicine, Mount Sinai Beth Israel (October 2021).