One of the most significant breakthroughs in cancer screening might not emerge via technological advances, but rather with further research into the capabilities of canines.
Dogs may potentially serve as an alternate means for screening cancer, suggest researchers who claim that canines can sniff out the disease, with test subjects demonstrating 98-percent accuracy in identifying prostate cancer.
In a study conducted by the Humanitas Clinical and Research Centre in Italy, researchers trained a pair of 3-year-old female German Shepherds to identify organic compounds specific to prostate cancer in urine samples obtained from 900 human participants – 360 of whom have prostate cancer, while 540 did not.
One dog scored an accuracy rate of 98.7 percent in detecting the disease, researchers reported. The other dog was 97.6 percent accurate.
The results are “spectacular,” said Dr. Claire Guest, co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs in England, which participated in the research.
"They offer us further proof that dogs have the ability to detect human cancer," she added, noting the results were particularly significant in that the research focused on prostate cancer, for which current diagnostic tests are considered inadequate.
Prostate cancer is currently diagnosed through blood tests, biopsies and physical examinations.
Medical Detection Dogs has been training dogs to sniff out diseases. It has carried out similar research which showed dogs can achieve 93-percent accuracy in detecting disease.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, after skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It is estimated that there will be around 220,800 new prostate cancer cases diagnosed and 27,540 deaths associated with the disease in 2015 in the United States.