According to research presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting, the answer is yes. The results of ongoing testing were made by BioScentDx, a company with the mission to use canine scent detection to develop screening techniques for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Lead researcher Heather Junqueira reported that three clicker-trained dogs correctly identified blood samples with lung cancer 96.7% of the time and normal samples 97.5% of the time. Clicker training helps the dog know exactly what it is being rewarded to improve the positive feedback during the training process.
Since dogs have 300 million smell receptors compared to humans’ 5 million, they are far more accurate at perceiving odors. Early detection of cancer offers patients the greatest chance for a cure with survival rates of 90%+ possible. According to Junqueira,”A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated.”
In addition to using dogs’ scent detection capabilities as a screening method for cancers, the company also plans to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening sensing techniques and tests based on those compounds. The canines are a part of this process as well. Once the samples are separated into their chemical compounds, the dogs will be used to isolate the substances causing the odor that they detect.
In addition to smelling blood, BioScentDx has also initiated a breast cancer study in which participants donate samples of their breath for screening by trained cancer-sniffing dogs.