Dogs detect cancers with near-perfect accuracy

Putting the “wow” in bow wow

Cancer research has NOT gone to the dogs. And that’s disappointing.

In an e-Tip we sent you in 2006, we told you about researchers who trained dogs to detect breast, lung, and other cancers. The accuracy rate of these Fidos was worth barking about — often scoring close to 100 percent.

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But in the eight years since that e-Tip, I’m afraid not much has happened. Yes, research has moved ahead. But it’s almost all focused on dollar signs. Whatever happened to the ethic of helping patients survive and THEN reaping the benefits?

Bloomberg News reports that University of Pennsylvania researchers recently trained a dog to sniff out ovarian cancer in tissue samples. The dog’s success rate is over 90 percent. That’s a huge breakthrough. Ovarian cancer is highly treatable when caught early. But it’s rarely caught in the early stages so the fatality rate is tragically high.

A few years ago my family was devastated when we lost my young sister-in-law to ovarian cancer. Her agonizing story plays out more than 14,000 times every year in the U.S.

So here we finally have this remarkable method for spotting ovarian cancer early, and what’s the reaction? Here’s how Bloomberg puts it: “Most current research is looking at how to copy the canine ability to smell disease either with a machine or a chemical test.”

In other words, training dogs isn’t going to make anyone rich. But a dog nose machine? Make that happen and you’ll have to start building money bins to store all your cash.

Look, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know our system is driven by profits. But doesn’t it seem like someone could, you know, save lives RIGHT NOW with a program to use dogs to test for ovarian and other cancers?

It might not make billions, but it could certainly generate enough funds to make it worth the effort.

Oh, and as an added bonus, untold numbers of cancer patients would be able to post photos online with this caption: “Here’s the dog who saved my life.”

That seems like all the payoff anyone would need.

Sources:

Dogs’ highly sensitive noses offer 90%-plus accuracy in sniffing out cancer
(chicagotribune.com)

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