- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2002

LONDON Dogs trained to sniff out the subliminal odors given off by cancer cells could soon be bringing new meaning to their reputation as man's best friend.
Veterinary surgeons at Cambridge University plan to see whether dogs can be trained to identify men with prostate cancer by sniffing out suspect urine samples.
Three dogs Chip, an alsatian, and Tarn, a black labrador, both age 2; and Bliss, a 7-year-old yellow labrador have started training for the task. Researchers have $220,000 in funding to proceed.
The idea could revolutionize screening for prostate cancer.
While the current test the prostate specific antigen can be used to identify sufferers, it is not entirely accurate.
Nor can it distinguish between the 20 percent of those with a fast-growing tumor requiring urgent treatment and those whose cancer is slow-growing and unlikely to jeopardize their health.
David Broom, a professor of animal welfare at Cambridge Veterinary School, said dogs have a remarkable ability to distinguish smells.
"Cancer cells produce different chemicals and therefore are likely to have different odors," he said. "Our idea is to see whether we can identify serious cases."
The research team, which will include specialists from the University of Nottingham and Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge, has been brought together by John Church, a retired orthopedic surgeon.
Dr. Church, who was involved with developing the use of maggots to clean infected wounds, was intrigued by reports of dogs sniffing out their owners' skin cancer, including one of a dermatologist in the United States who said he trained a 6-year-old schnauzer to pick out malignant skin lesions.
Last year, Dr. Church came across Mike Holman, 68, from Reading, England, who was alerted to the fact that a patch on his leg of what he thought was eczema required attention when his labrador, Parker, began showing interest in it three years ago.
"We noticed that Parker would come into the room and dab his nose hard at the spot, sniffing it through my trousers," Mr Holman said.
"He was concentrating really hard, and his tail would stop wagging. I decided to get it looked at, and a consultant at the Royal Berkshire Hospital took one look and said it was a low-grade cancer. After I had treatment, Parker wasn't interested anymore."
Dr. Church said it makes sense to test dogs as cancer detectives on prostate cancer rather than skin cancer.
Charlie Clarricoates, the dog expert training Chip, Tarn and Bliss, said, "What we will have is 50 or 100 samples from men who definitely haven't got prostate cancer and samples from men who definitely have. All it will entail is repetition for the dogs to realize that a particular smell gets a reward, so it will look for that smell."
"The dogs will have to be 100 percent accurate, and so they will be run through rigorous tests, but I feel it is going to be fairly easy for them to do this. They love it."
Dr. Chris Hiley of the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "Wouldn't it be amazing if it worked? And isn't it ironic that the only mammals apart from man known to suffer prostate cancer are dogs?"

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