Specially trained canines were able to detect thyroid cancer with 88 percent accuracy in a recent study. Researchers say that having the ability to identify this type of cancer with such certainty represents a major advancement in the field.
For the study, researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) worked with dogs that had already been trained in scent detection. They then took fresh tissue from patients who had the most prevalent form of thyroid cancer and introduced it to the dogs. When the animals were later presented with urine samples, they accurately detected the cancer-positive samples in 30 out of 34 instances.
According to a UAMS statement, prior research has shown scent-trained dogs to be able to distinguish between different types of cancerous and non-cancerous tissue. However, the UAMS study was novel in that it tested the dogs’ accuracy prior to using a medical diagnostic system.
UAMS researchers say that the findings could be a serious step forward in terms of diagnosing thyroid cancer. “We’ve all looked at it from a skeptical, scientific standpoint, but the data just keeps leading us to the fact that this has remarkable clinical potential,” Arny Ferrando, PhD, a professor and researcher in the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, says in a press release.
This isn’t the first time that dogs have been introduced into cancer treatment. According to a recent report in the Daily Record, another study from Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City found therapy dogs to improve quality of life for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.