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Trained Labrador Can Sniff Out Colon Cancer, Researchers Say
Date:2/1/2011

dition to these studies, there have been several anecdotal reports of patients whose pet dogs seemed attracted to or upset by skin cancers," he added.

Although the idea of dogs recognizing cancer might initially seem difficult for some people to believe, it also seems biologically plausible, Gansler said.

"We know that trained dogs can distinguish the scent of one person from another person. Dogs can also be trained to recognize very low concentrations of explosives or illegal drugs in the air. Scientists have already identified some of the chemical differences between normal and malignant tissues, so it is not surprising that some dogs can also recognize these differences," he said.

Some might wonder whether it is time to use dogs in the clinic for cancer screening, Gansler said. "However, much more research will be needed before we can seriously think about dogs assuming roles in cancer screening similar to their current ones in law enforcement," he said.

One limitation is that the dog in this study did not reliably recognize any abnormal scent from precancerous polyps, although it was not specifically trained to do so, Gansler said. "In contrast, some colon cancer tests such as colonoscopy can accurately recognize these polyps so they can be removed by the doctor in order to prevent colon cancer before it is fully developed."

The next step is to discover the specific chemicals associated with colon cancer, or with other types of cancers, Gansler said. "Once that is done, scientists will try to develop laboratory tests that detect these chemicals as potential methods for cancer screening."

Another expert, Dr. Floriano Marchetti, an assistant professor of clinical surgery and director of the Colon and Rectal Surgery Residency Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that "the direction should be to stimulate research in finding the organic compound that the dog reacts to."

If one could develop a
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