In a recent presentation at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association, Dr. Gianluigi Taverna outlined exciting experimental results which may revolutionize how prostate cancer is diagnosed.
The completely non-invasive method involves using dogs with specialized training to literally smell prostate cancer in urine samples.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death for men over age 50. This disease claims over 30,000 lives per year in the United States. If prostate cancer is suspected, a biopsy is often performed to confirm the presence of cancer.
Over one million prostate cancer biopsies are performed in the US each year, and of these, only a quarter are found positive. Though an anaesthetic is used, this procedure can be uncomfortable at best, and for some may be quite painful.
For their experiment, Dr. Taverna of the Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, Italy and his colleagues collected urine samples from over 600 men. Approximately half of the men had prostate cancer in various stages, while the other half, the control group, did not.
Two female German Shepherd dogs who had been trained in the detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in urine sniffed each sample in a blind test – none of the researchers knew which samples were positive during the experiment.
When the researchers averaged the success rates of both dogs, they found that they were able to correctly detect prostate cancer in the samples with 98 percent accuracy.
Dr. Taverna summarizes: “The present study first demonstrates that a trained canine olfactory system detects specific PC-VOCs in urine samples from a large number of patients with PC at different stages and risks versus a heterogeneous control group, which is unthinkable in current clinical urological practice. Thanks to the early intuition, we have definitely turned what used to seem a myth into a real clinical opportunity.”
He adds: “This study gives us a standardized method of diagnosis that is reproducible, low cost and non-invasive.”
Though there is more testing to be done, this diagnosis technique shows a great deal of promise, and may take much of the physical stress and discomfort out of prostate cancer screenings in the future.
-The Alternative Daily