JAPAN - A 10-year-old Labrador retriever has been trained to detect gynecological cancer such as uterine cancer with a high level of accuracy.
Marine, a female, was trained in Minami-Boso, Chiba Prefecture, to detect smells specific to cancer, said Masao Miyashita, a professor of Chiba Hokuso Hospital of Nippon Medical School.
Marine has also begun using her training to successfully detect cancer of the large intestine. Experiments are now under way to see if she can also detect stomach and breast cancer.
"She can detect symptomless early-stage cancer," Miyashita said. "We'd like to determine the substance she smells and improve technology for early detection."
In the experiments, Marine walks with a researcher in front of boxes that contain test tubes filled with one milliliter of urine. If she smells cancer, she sits down in front of the box. If not, she walks on.
Marine detected cancer from the urine of all 43 patients who suffered from five kinds of gynecological cancer such as uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer.
Among 29 patients who suffered from noncancerous gynecological diseases such as uterine fibroid, she mistakenly identified one cancer-free patient as having cancer.
In the experiments on cancers of the large intestine, breath samples were used instead of urine. A Kyushu University research team confirmed that Marine could detect this kind of cancer with an accuracy of more than 90 per cent. This study was published in a British medical journal in January last year.
Miyashita said the experiments for stomach and breast cancer are progressing smoothly. He said his team plans to present the research at conferences of the Japanese Breast Cancer Society in June and the Japanese Cancer Association in September.