The National Jewish Health in Denver is working to figure out exactly what dogs smell that alerts them to the presence of cancer. Researchers hope to use the information to pioneer a “mechanical dog” that can detect lung cancer in its early stages.
“We know that they [animals] can smell more than what you or I can smell,” Dr. James Jett with National Jewish Health told CBS. “The goal is to see if we can come up with a certain pattern of chemicals in your breath that says you’re at a high likelihood of having cancer or that says you do have cancer.”
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the United States, claiming around 160,000 Americans every year. Early detection dramatically improves a patient’s outlook. Only one percent of stage four lung cancer patients survive for five years, while those diagnosed in stage one have a five-year survival rating of 70 to 80 percent.
But about 80 percent of lung cancer patients aren’t diagnosed until they are in the advanced stages. “If we can detect more people with earlier stage cancer we’re going to have a better chance of curing more individuals,” Jett said.
Jett’s test pulls the breath across 128 sensors to detect different chemicals and identify lung cancer’s chemical signature. The National Jewish Health is not enrolling participants in a trial to test the device.