ERIE, Pa. (WJET) — A recent study by the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine shows that beagles are capable of identifying lung cancer in humans with near-perfect precision.
The research, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, indicates that three beagles were 97% accurate in distinguishing blood serum samples of patients with malignant lung cancer from healthy control samples. The study was conducted by a team from the college’s Bradenton, Florida, campus in collaboration with BioScentDX, a canine training and research firm in nearby Myakka City, Florida.
Investigators selected the beagle breed because scent hounds are perfectly equipped for a scent-centered study thanks to their natural olfactory capabilities. Dogs’ sense of smell is at least 10,000 times stronger than that of humans; specifically, beagles have 225 million olfactory receptors compared to humans’ 5 million receptors. The study also cites the breed’s size, calm demeanor, ability to be trained and social personality as ideal traits for this type of investigation.
The college and BioScentDX are nearing completion on a second study that examines the dogs’ efficacy in detecting breast, lung and colorectal cancer in breath condensate samples collected from patients’ face masks. Early indications suggest the beagles are just as successful in positively identifying cancer in exhaled breath samples as they are in finding cancer in blood serum samples. Furthermore, early research suggests that dogs have the ability to detect the presence of breast cancer significantly earlier than other proven methods, such as mammograms.
Future studies will expand to include additional canine breeds and other forms of cancer. Researchers will also focus on determining the specific cancer biomarkers dogs are sensing within these samples.
According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women worldwide. Each year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. receive a diagnosis of lung cancer, and 13 percent of all new cancer diagnoses are a form of lung cancer.