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J Breath Res. 2015 May 6;9(2):027001. doi: 10.1088/1752-7155/9/2/027001.

Study of the art: canine olfaction used for cancer detection on the basis of breath odour. Perspectives and limitations.

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Department of Animal Behaviour, Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding of Polish Academy of Sciences, Jastrzębiec, O5-552 Magdalenka, Poland.


Experimental studies using trained dogs to identify breath odour markers of human cancer, published in the recent decade, have been analyzed and compared with the authors' own results. Particular published studies differ as regards the experimental setup, kind of odour samples (breath, urine, tumor tissue, serum), sample collection methods, dogs' characteristics and dog training methods as well as in results presented in terms of detection sensitivity and specificity. Generally it can be stated that trained dogs are able to distinguish breath odour samples typical for patients with lung cancer and other cancers from samples typical for healthy humans at a 'better than by chance' rate. Dogs' indications were positively correlated with content of 2-pentanone and ethyl acetate (r = 0.97 and r = 0.85 respectively) and negatively correlated with 1-propanol and propanal in breath samples (r = -0.98 and -0.87 respectively). The canine method has some advantages as a potential cancer-screening method, due to its non-invasiveness, simplicity of odour sampling and storage, ease of testing and interpretation of results and relatively low costs. Disadvantages and limitations of this method are related to the fact that it is still not known exactly to which chemical compounds and/or their combinations the dogs react. So far it could not be confirmed that dogs are able to sniff out early preclinical cancer stages with approximately the same accuracy as already diagnosed cases. The detection accuracy may vary due to failure in conditioning of dogs, decreasing motivation or confounding factors. The dogs' performance should be systematically checked in rigorous double-blind procedures. Recommendations for methodological standardization have been proposed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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