The dog correctly classified 63 out of 66 specimens.
If the findings hold up in other studies, they'll be "pretty impressive," said urologist Dr. Anthony Y. Smith, who was to moderate a discussion on the findings Tuesday at the American Urological Association annual meeting in San Francisco.
Skeptical researchers are concerned about factors that could throw off the results, said Smith, chief of urology at the University of New Mexico. Among other things, scientists wonder if the animals used in such studies pick up on subconscious signals from researchers.
Still, in this study, it's hard to imagine anything "other than the dogs somehow being able to smell something that we don't smell," Smith said.
If these findings are valid, they could lead to the development of more accurate tests that don't require unnecessary biopsies, Smith said.
The next steps are to determine precisely what the dogs are sniffing and to develop an "electronic nose" to detect it, Cornu said. Other dogs are already being trained, he said.
Could doctors and hospitals employ dogs and researchers to detect prostate cancer? Cornu said that's possible, but it could cost as much as hiring two full-time scientists.
For more about prostate cancer, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
-- Randy Dotinga
SOURCES: Jean Nicolas Cornu, researcher, Hospital Tenon, Paris; Anthony Y. Smith, M.D., chief, urology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; June 1, 2010, presentation, American Urological Association annual meeting, San Francisco
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