The study, presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Orlando, looked at how four beagles, all two years old, identified human blood samples -- either with lung cancer or without.
Though one of the dogs, named Snuggles, was “unmotivated to perform,” according to a statement, the other three were able to correctly identify blood samples with lung cancer 96.7 percent of the time as well as normal blood samples 97.5 percent of the time.
The experiment, conducted by researchers at the Florida pharmaceutical lab BioScentDx, trained the beagles to differentiate between blood samples from lung cancer patients and normal blood samples.
The beagles were able to detect the differences because dogs have smell receptors that are 10,000 times more accurate than humans’, according to the statement.
Heather Junqueira, who led the study, said her findings could lead to other cancer-screening tools, which are important because early cancer detection often means higher chances of survival.
“This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools,” Junqueira said.
“One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds,” she added.