Sniffer dogs can detect volatile compounds that are specific to individuals with lung cancer. In an experiment conducted at Schillerhoehe Hospital, in Germany, specially trained dogs were able to identify 71 out of 100 participants diagnosed with lung cancer prior to the experiment.
Attempts to isolate VOC markers for lung cancers are hardly new. For the past decade, studies carried at medical universities and research institutes have looked for molecules that appear selectively in the breath of patients with lung cancer, and not in healthy individuals. The list of suspected VOC markers included twenty molecules, according to a study performed by Philips M. from Menssana Research Inc., in 1999. All the molecules on Dr. Philips’ list were hydrocarbons, a large chemical group that also includes vegetable oils.
Ten years later, the list of VOC markers suspected for lung cancer has been revised. Last year, Fillipiak W. from the Department of Operative Medicine proposed that aldehydes, substances that contain oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, could be on the list in addition to hydrocarbons.
What makes the German experiment different from previous research on VOC markers is the sniffer dogs. The success confirms two things: 1). dogs are awesome and 2) the breath profile of individuals with lung cancer is uniquely different from healthy individuals. This means that in the future, diagnosis of lung cancer could rely solely on detection of VOC markers.
If you are impressed with the talents of our furry companions, and want to adopt a sniffer dog, consider the Rover Rescue in Aurora, Illinois http://www.roverrescue.org/index.html.
“Study finds sniffer dogs can smell out lung cancer.” Reuters.com. Ed. Janet Lawrence. Thomson Reuters. Web. August 27, 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/18/us-cancer-lung-dogs-idUSTRE77H1FR20110818.
“Filipiak, W., and A. Sponring, A. Filipiak, C. Ager, J. Schubert, W. Miekisch, A. Amann, J. Tropmair. ”TD-GC-MS analysis of volatile metabolites of human lung cancer and normal cells in vitro”. PublMed.gov. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. August 27, 2011.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20056637.
Philips, M., and K.Gleeson, J.M. Hughes, J. Greenberg, R.N. Cataneo, L. Baker, W.P. McVay.” Volatile organic compounds in breath as markers of lung cancer: a cross-sectional study”.PublMed.gov. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. August 27, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10371572.