Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rover Knows Twice as Much as You Think

      I usually listen to the Current from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM on CBC radio. Sometimes something really catches my attention so that I have to share it in blog land.

     Arlene Weintraub, a science author , has written a book about the contribution of dogs to cancer research. It surprised me what dogs contribute in cancer research.

    Dogs get similar cancers to humans. In some ways dogs receive the same cancer treatment as humans. With dogs some different drugs can be given to them to see what effect they have on the dog's cancer. The dogs have cancer so it's not like some tests where the animal is given a condition and then "Oh let's see what will this do." The dog already has cancer and new drug therapy can be tried. So many things can be learned about a drug therapy that has not been approved for human use.

   What real caught my attention was that they are training dogs to identify blood samples where the person has cancer. A number of blood samples are taken. Most samples are not from people having cancer and some blood samples come from people who do have cancer. Dogs can be very accurate in picking the blood sample where the person has cancer. Some cancers are very difficult to diagnose until it's too late. Ovarian cancer is one where it's difficult to identify early.  They are hoping that dogs can identify blood samples that will tell if the person has ovarian cancer. Dogs can be trained to pick other specific cancers. 

     The dog's sense of smell is adequate to pick up the correct scent. The dog has to concentrate and not get sidetracked to pick up the correct scent. The dog has to be on his game. The dog will pick the sample with cancer by stopping beside the sample and sitting down. The same process happens when dogs are used to search luggage for illicit drugs.

    I know that dogs have a very keen sense of smell but I didn't realize that it could be applied to a cancer diagnosis. It adds more meaning to the phrase a dog is man's best friend.