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Biotech Medicine

Dogs Trained To Sniff Out Ovarian Cancer 83

Posted by timothy
from the as-long-as-the-dogs-aren't-menacing dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dogs have been trained to sniff out drugs, explosives, cadavers, mobile phones, firearms, and money but now AP reports that researchers have started training canines to sniff out the signature compound that indicates the presence of ovarian cancer. If the animals can isolate the chemical marker, scientists at the nearby Monell Chemical Senses Center will work to create an electronic sensor to identify the same odorant. "Because if the dogs can do it, then the question is, Can our analytical instrumentation do it? We think we can," says organic chemist George Preti. More than 20,000 Americans are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. When it's caught early, women have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent. But because of its generic symptoms — weight gain, bloating or constipation — the disease is more often caught late."
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Dogs Trained To Sniff Out Ovarian Cancer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 12, 2013 @04:41AM (#44540249)

    Wanted: Annoying crotch sniffing dog. While any breed will do, one who's head is about waist height and who's nose is not too messy is preferred. Top dollar will be paid for obsessive-compulsive sniffers.

    • by glueball (232492) on Monday August 12, 2013 @08:48AM (#44541081)

      Dog will work in the lab. After positive patient finding, send patient to cat scan.

      • After positive patient finding, send patient to cat scan.

        What's the cat going to do?

        • by glueball (232492)

          I will diagram the multiple puns:
          The dog is what we are talking about.
          The lab, a type of dog, is also a department you will find in a hospital.

          If you have a positive medical finding of most anything in a hospital, and possibly from a lab, a physician will send you to a CAT scanner (computer aided tomography).

          A cat is also a type of pet, much like a dog only without a soul. A side note is that a pet is also a type of scan, also known as a Positron Emission Tomography scan.

          So in a short pair of sentences I w

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As someone who lost his wife to ovarian cancer less than a year ago, I'm glad there are people who can find humor in this story. The truth is because there are no reliable screening tests for ovarian and other gynicological cancers very few women are diagnosed earlier than stage IIIC which is just short of terminal. The real key is diaganosing before it has spread to the abdominal wall because then it is essentially incurable. My wife was given about 3 months without treatment, but with modern treatments s

      • Mr. Anonymous, sorry about your loss - such things are never easy.

        I hope you're not overly offended by those of us who make light of the image of crotch-sniffing dogs in women's clinics. I'm not sure of the person who made the "Wanted:" comment above, but for many people (myself included) humor is simply a way of dealing with the unpleasant and often painful realities of life. So, it's not an attempt to be dismissive of the pain and overall nastiness of the disease, but more coping mechanism. At least fo

  • Bad metric (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grantbridge (1377621) on Monday August 12, 2013 @04:41AM (#44540253)
    "When it's caught early, women have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent" - this is true for nearly all cancers even if there is no treatment. The fire-year survival rate depends MOSTLY on when you diagnose someone. And if you have a high false-positive in your diagnosis then you get a really big boost to the five-year survival rate. Screening programs boost the metric, but they don't necessarily boost actual survival, as the fire-year time starts from diagnosis.
    • Re:Bad metric (Score:4, Insightful)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:29AM (#44540363)

      And if you have a high false-positive in your diagnosis then you get a really big boost to the five-year survival rate.

      Hmm, are you sure that this is relevant? I would have thought that after getting a positive on a screening test, what you eventually do (perhaps after using one or more other screening methods) is a biopsy. As in, putting the stuff under the microscope being the reference diagnostic method for neoplastic tissue changes and all that jazz. I'd assume that when giving the five-year survival rate, you only consider patients with definitive diagnoses with false positives having been already excluded.

      • Re:Bad metric (Score:5, Informative)

        by Grantbridge (1377621) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:42AM (#44540395)
        Well it depends on the cancer, I don't know about for Ovarian in particular, but for prostate you often find cancerous tissue, but it is so slow growing it wouldn't be a threat unless you lived to be over 100, and as such the side effects of treatment are much worse than the cancer would have been. These sorts of slow growing non-threatening cancers wouldn't ever produce symptoms, and so wouldn't be diagnosed without a screening programme.
        • Re:Bad metric (Score:5, Informative)

          by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Monday August 12, 2013 @06:48AM (#44540537)

          Well it depends on the cancer, I don't know about for Ovarian in particular, but for prostate you often find cancerous tissue, but it is so slow growing it wouldn't be a threat unless you lived to be over 100, and as such the side effects of treatment are much worse than the cancer would have been. These sorts of slow growing non-threatening cancers wouldn't ever produce symptoms, and so wouldn't be diagnosed without a screening programme.

          That is true with prostate cancer, but not ovarian cancer. Besides in relation to the original post, finding cancer cells in one's prostate, even if slow growing would not be a false positive but an actual positive. But yes, if you are 80 and they find prostate cancer they may not do anything about it. If you are 60 and they find it, they aren't going to just let it go.

          • That is true with prostate cancer, but not ovarian cancer.

            I am leaning toward agreeing with you, but is this a true fact? I would guess this is a correct assumption given low incidence of coincidental ovarian cancers found in autopsy series, but until you actually study this question rigorously, it is still an assumption. Look at what is happening with prostate and breast cancer screening. If you had asked several decades ago, of course early detection would save lives. This is true but not for all types of breast cancer or prostate cancer. Granted ovarian cancer

            • Look at what is happening with prostate and breast cancer screening. If you had asked several decades ago, of course early detection would save lives.

              I think that early detection always saves at least some lives. But the problem is probably the "detection" part. A positive find in screening itself doesn't amount to successful detection.

              • I think that early detection always saves at least some lives.

                Another important consideration is at what cost? For example, you get a positive screening test. To get final detection, you need to undergo an invasive biopsy (such as a needle inserted into your anus for a prostate biopsy). If the biopsy shows cancer, you might get surgery to get it taken out. Surgical complications, including death. Hospital acquired infections, blood clots, etc. For prostate surgery, a significant risk of incontinence and impotence. So take 100 men with prostate cancer, couple have sign

          • Even at 60, you might well be better off letting prostate cancer just sit around unmolested. And this is the problem with a broad brush approach to false positives and screening programs. DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in situ) is the poster child [dcisredefined.org] for this problem. Some cancers are very aggressive (ovarian for one), others not (DCIS and most but not all prostate cancers). If you don't screen for less aggressive cancers and they aren't clinically apparent, your false negative rate goes sky high. If you screen f

        • by jbengt (874751)

          These sorts of slow growing non-threatening cancers [prostate] wouldn't ever produce symptoms

          Unless you consider having your sleep interrupted by getting up to urinate a several times a night without being able to produce much urine a symptom. Of course, that may happen before the prostate turns cancerous, but the point is, symptoms do develop over time with prostate cancer, and eventually, if you live long enough, it will probably kill you. There is a difference between a disease having obvious symptoms

    • Re:Bad metric (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:39AM (#44540387)

      After a bit of Googling, it looks like this is called the "lead time bias" and is a rather significant issue with interpreting the benefits of a diagnostic test. That said, when 70% of sufferers aren't discovered until after metastasis, a better diagnostic method is desperately needed.

    • Re:Bad metric (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blackest_k (761565) on Monday August 12, 2013 @06:10AM (#44540441) Homepage Journal

      10-year relative survival ranges from 84.1% in stage IA to 10.4% in stage IIIC
        Survival rates based on SEER incidence and NCHS mortality statistics, as cited by the National Cancer Institute in SEER Stat Fact Sheets â" Cancer of the Ovary http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/ovary.html [cancer.gov]

      In Laymans terms if Ovarian Cancer is caught early then treatment such as Surgery and Chemotherapy have a reasonable chance of keeping women alive for 10 years or more, diagnose later and the chances are she will die. Screening really is about the only method of catching treatable cancers at an early enough stage that they can be treated since if you don't look for it , it tends to be already at an untreatable stage when it is eventually discovered.
      Obviously screening doesnt make the untreatable , treatable but it does save lives where early treatment can make a difference. It's not pointless which is what you appear to imply.

      • In Laymans terms if Ovarian Cancer is caught early then treatment such as Surgery and Chemotherapy have a reasonable chance of keeping women alive for 10 years or more

        You better had your capitals biopsied to check if they're benign.

        • You better had your capitals biopsied to check if they're benign.

          I just use them on a case by case basis. What's your excuse for that monstrosity :)

      • It will take some rather nasty inhumane test to figure out if cancers in stage 1A will in fact become mortal. There is a lot of speculation and I believe even testing on lab animals to figure out how much of "early detected" will in fact develop into something more threatening. From what I understand, a significant amount of breast cancer growths will essentially "kill themselves" after a while in certain types of breast cancer. How much of this applies to other sorts of cancers is something that we don't h

    • by fuzznutz (789413)

      "When it's caught early, women have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent" - this is true for nearly all cancers even if there is no treatment.

      Yeah, but now you get more time to worry about it before you croak.

    • You haven't heard of acute cancers? The untreated survival rate there is 0% after about a month or two.
  • Genitals (Score:5, Funny)

    by Olix (812847) on Monday August 12, 2013 @04:47AM (#44540269)
    This is a pretty good idea as dogs like to smell genitals anyway. They should do it for testicular cancer too.
  • ... bring a doggie treat
  • Name the next dog in the program "Miggs."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    2012
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57553262/doctor-dogs-being-trained-to-sniff-out-ovarian-cancer/ [cbsnews.com]

    2009 (Can Dogs Sniff Out Cancer?)
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-703845.html [cbsnews.com]

    2006 (Dogs Excel In Cancer-Sniff Study)
    http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500368_162-1204680.html [cbsnews.com]

    every few years it pops up, but still nothing other than studies, perhaps its just a funding thing

  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:41AM (#44540391)
    In some cases I'd try and give the dog a run for its money.
  • I'll get a dog to determine if I have ovarian cancer. I'll get a cat to determine if I have a bacterial infection.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because, when it doesn't work, there won't be any story in the news after the experiment.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Monday August 12, 2013 @07:34AM (#44540673)

    A selection of cats said "Meh".

  • They are experts at sniffing crotches, after all. It's only a matter of time before they can also sniff out bowel and prostate cancers too.

  • One big problem (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by smooth wombat (796938)
    But because of its generic symptoms â" weight gain, bloating or constipation â" the disease is more often caught late."

    How are we supposed to tell the difference between the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the general appearance of large portions of the female population in the U.S.?
  • Garth Stein should claim Prior Art from "The Art of Racing in the Rain [amazon.com]"

  • ...based on where he tries to stick his nose every time a woman between 12 and 80 comes into the room.

  • ...why did they start out with a disease that can only affect 50% of the population?

  • Am I the only one with raised eyebrows, from line 1 of the summary? Dogs can sniff out mobile phones - this is just an accepted factoid now? How do the differentiate between a phone and say an electric li-ion shaver in your bag?

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