Researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital trained 4 dogs, 2 German shepherds, an Australian shepherd and a labrador to detect lung cancer by sniffing samples of patients’ breath.
The study included 60 lung cancer patients, 50 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a non-cancerous narrowing of the airways of the lungs and 110 healthy people as a control group.
All the participants breathed into a fleece-filled tube. The dogs were then offered a sniff of the tubes and told to sit when they detected the particular smell of lung cancer, as they had been trained to do.
The findings published in the European Respiratory Journal, indicate that sniffer dogs managed to detect 71% of lung cancer cases without being distracted by chemicals associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or smoking.
The researchers suggest that their findings confirm the presence of a stable marker for lung cancer in patients’ breath.
However, scientists believe that further studies are needed before the use of trained dogs as diagnostic aides.
They hope the findings may lead to the development of a more advanced technology.