October 16th, 2017
Prostate cancer is a serious malignancy that affects hundreds of males each year. According to latest estimates, more than 2,33,000 cases of prostate cancer malignancy will be detected each year in the US. Traditional screening methods such as digital rectal examination, are often considered as reliable screening tools to detect prostate malignancy in males; yet these methods are not always on-point. According to a new research study conducted by Italian scientists, investigators discovered that trained canines and men’s best friend – dogs, can accurately detect prostate cancer with an accuracy of 98% merely by sniffing the urine.
Dogs are known for their extraordinary sense of smell. This is mainly because, while humans have only 5 million olfactory receptors (for smell), dogs have over 200 million receptors that accounts for their highly sensitive sense of smell.
For past few decades, investigators are trying to utilize this great ability of dogs to help mankind. Not so long ago, investigators discovered that these animals can help diabetic patients by alerting them for low or high blood sugar levels by sniffing blood sugar concentration in the blood/ sweat or bodily secretions.
In fact, there has been several other studies in which investigators have successfully used specially trained dogs to detect ovarian, and bladder cancers in human.
A new Italian study that was conducted on 677 subjects have shown that trained dogs have an ability to smell specific volatile organic compounds (also known as VOCs) in the urine of prostate cancer patients with an accuracy of 98%. Of this study sample, 357 samples were obtained from healthy controls, while 320 samples were collected from patientssuffering from different stages of prostate cancer (mild to metastatic) via urine sniff test in an unstimulated environment. Back in 2010, a similar study was conducted with promising results, but the sample size was small (comprising of only 31 patients.
The large size of the Italian study has further emphasized the role of volatile organic compounds in the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Investigators finds it promising that dogs can detect the prostate cancer malignancy with a sensitivity of 99% and specificity of 97%; thus, reducing the need for more embarrassing and invasive tests like DRE (digital rectal examination) and PSA levels respectively. However, more research is needed before urine sniff test is recommended as a reliable screening test for prostate cancer detection.