Calgary canines sniff out lung cancer

CALGARY- The noses of nine Calgary dogs are becoming important research tools in the fight against cancer.

“What we’re doing here is cancer detection research,” says Bianca Nassy, the operations manager for Clever Canines. “We’re training dogs to detect lung cancer by sniffing breath samples.”

Since June of 2014, researchers have been working with the University of Calgary to see if dogs can sniff out chemical compounds exhaled by patients experiencing various stages of lung cancer. So far, two dogs have proven they can.

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“The goal is to move on and try other cancers as well, once they get really good at lunch cancer,” Nassy said.

Arlene Weintraub is the author of Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures. She says four-legged cancer detection is a rapidly growing field of research, not only in Calgary, but around the world.

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“This is a very hot idea right now because the hope is (the dog’s) ability to smell cancer can be translated into diagnostic devices for early detection,” says Weintraub.

Weintraub says so far, dogs appear to be able to detect early stage disease for lung, gastric, breast and perhaps most impressively: ovarian cancer tumors.

“This (ovarian cancer) is a very tough cancer because it doesn’t produce symptoms until it’s very advanced and hard to treat,” says Weintraub. “But dogs have been shown to be able to smell ovarian tumors.”

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