Category Archives: Health

McBane – Detector of Ovarian Cancer

McBane – Learning to Identify Ovarian Cancer

Top Secret Writers, August 2013

Dogs have an incredible wide range of talents. They have the capacity to be trained to detect glucose levels in diabetics (see article on Dakota), bladder cancer based on the smell of a person’s urine, lung cancer and melanoma. Now, the University of Pennsylvania is researching the ability to train dogs to detect ovarian cancer. There is currently no test or diagnostic tool to discover ovarian cancer. Those who are diagnosed early are typically identified by physicians who recognize possible changes during normal examination.

Out of the 20,000 women diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, 60% aren’t diagnosed until the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body. 14,000 American women die each year of the disease and it is the fifth cause of cancer deaths in women. If patients are diagnosed in the early stage of ovarian cancer, they have a 90% increase in the 5 year survival rate. What makes it so “difficult to diagnose is the lack of specific symptoms that would alert the patient”. The generic symptoms are weight gain, constipation and bloating, and an increase in the frequency of urination and are common to other illnesses or even to changes in daily habits.

Previous research has shown that Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), better known as “odorants ‘are altered in the earliest stages of ovarian cancer, even before the cancer can be detected by current methods’ “. Several department of the University are working together to train dogs, since they were eight weeks old, to distinguish between blood and tissue samples of healthy individuals and cancer patients. The goal is to get the dogs to recognize the signature scent of ovarian cancer. The scientists plan to “incorporate the dog’s sense of smell in developing a screening process that will combine chemical and nanotechnology”. The hope is that this technology will then be “capable of analyzing the patient’s odorants to detect early stage ovarian cancer. One of the dogs, so far, has a 90% accuracy rate.

Dakota – Living Health Monitor

Sarah Forgany, KHOU TV, San Antonio, May 2012

At the tender age of 17 months, Ben Ownby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes which can become deadly, so, it has to be monitored hourly. It is important if the sugar is either too low or too high. Ben had to receive seven or eight shots of insulin a day to survive, and he still had seizures.

As Ben was growing up, a cute brown Labridoodle named Dakota, was being trained as a guide dog by the Guide Dogs of Texas in San Antonio. He didn’t, however, pass the demanding final requirements, but with his good scenting ability, personality and temperment, Dakota was retrained for months to detect glucose levels and became a scenting, diabetes alert dog. Dogs have over 200 million scent receptors in their noses compared to a human’s five million. “When blood sugars begin to fluctuate, the human body releases chemicals that change the body’s smell”. It’s unnoticeable to the human nose, but to a trained dog, “it’s an alarm.”

Dakota became Ben’s dog three years ago. They’ve been inseparable since then.  “He can tell my blood sugar by the scent of my breath”. If the blood sugar is too low, Dakota will jump up on Ben. If it’s too high, he’ll nibble on Ben’s wrist band to signal that Ben needs to use a traditional machine to measure his blood sugar levels.

Ben woke up in the middle of the night and found Dakota standing on him and looking down at him. Ben got up and tested his blood levels and found it was low. “He’s usually very accurate.”
Dogs “can actually detect a rise or a fall up to an hour before you know it or your meter would catch it” said Cherry Campbell, with non-profit Warren Retrievers in Virginia.

Dakota even helps Ben’s classmate. “He’s come next to me to signal that I need to check my blood sugar” said a class member. “I have been low.”

Ben’s father, Bob, said that “it was love at first sight.” Dakota helps us with the “safety of our son” and provides us “a sense of security”.

“There’s an undeniable love and bond between Ben and Dakota – a friend and a partner, who may one day save Ben’s life”