Researchers in Arkansas have trained a dog to detect thyroid cancer by smelling patients’ urine samples.
The german shepherd-mix named Frankie predicted with 88% accuracy which patients had thyroid cancer and which had a benign disease. The formerly stray pup was rescued from a busy street in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The study is researchers’ first crack at using canines to diagnose thyroid cancer through scent imprinting – a way of training dogs to recognize a particular smell. It follows an earlier study that showed dogs could reliably distinguish between the urine samples of healthy people and those with cancer.
Over six months, researchers at Arkansas University for Medical Sciences, where the study was conducted, scent-imprinted Frankie with samples of blood, tissue and urine from patients with cancerous thyroid growths. Frankie was trained to turn away when benign thyroid disease was smelled, and lie down at the scent of metastatic thyroid carcinoma, a common thyroid cancer. Of 34 patients, Frankie accurately predicted the diagnosis 30 times
The findings were presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual conference Endo.