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.