A piece in today’s Telegraph:
A “robotic nose” could be developed to detect prostate cancer after dogs successfully sniffed out the disease with 71 per cent accuracy, a study has found.
Florin, a four-year-old Labrador, and Midas, a seven-year-old Vizsla, were able to correctly identify urine samples of people with prostate cancer – raising hopes that dogs’ superior sense of smell could be used for widespread testing.
The pair correctly identified positive samples in 71 per cent of cases, and correctly showed no reaction to negative samples or those with other diseases in between 70 and 76 per cent of cases.
Scientists have now revealed that larger scale studies are being planned to develop a “‘robotic nose” that may take the form of a smartphone application in the future, providing a quick and non-invasive way of detecting prostate cancer in patients and potentially saving millions of lives.
Dr Andreas Mershin, a physicist and research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who co-authored the study, said an electronic device to test for prostate cancer should be “completely scalable to other diseases”.
“Imagine a day when smartphones can send an alert for potentially being at risk for highly aggressive prostate cancer, years before a doctor notices a rise in PSA levels,” he said.
“The incredible work of these dogs is critical as we advance this programme to develop an improved method of early prostate cancer diagnosis.”
PSA (prostate-specific antigen) is a protein produced by normal cells in the prostate and also by prostate cancer cells.
It’s normal to have a small amount of PSA in your blood, and the amount rises slightly as you get older and your prostate gets bigger.
A raised PSA level may suggest you have a problem with your prostate, but not necessarily cancer. A PSA blood test is currently the most commonly used method of detecting prostate cancer.
The two dogs used in the study were from the Milton Keynes-based charity Medical Detection Dogs.
Dr Claire Guest, chief scientific officer of the charity, said the study’s findings are “extremely exciting”.
“This has enormous potential and in time the ability of the dogs’ nose could be translated to an electronic device,” she said.
“This additional information could support the PSA test and would provide earlier, non-invasive, sensitive detection of clinically aggressive prostate cancers that would most benefit from early diagnosis, simply from a urine sample.
“What we now need to find out is whether or not the dog’s ability to discriminate and detect the very fast-growing, dangerous forms of prostate cancer through this non-invasive and rapid, reliable test could go on to saving millions of lives around the world.”
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.
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