Canine Scent Detection Featured Recruitment

Study Update: Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer Research Project

The Pine Street Foundation, with the collaboration of principal investigator Dr. Touradj Solouki at Baylor University, and the support of US government funding, has been conducting a study on the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Our goal with this study is to find out if analysis of exhaled breath can become an accurate, simple, and non-invasive test for ovarian cancer that can be used in a clinical setting to find women with ovarian while it is still in its early stages.

We are doing this with sophisticated chemical analysis at Dr. Solouki’s Baylor University laboratory and with a team of trained dogs at the Pine Street Foundation’s offices in California. We also hope the results of our research will help to predict whether a woman’s ovarian cancer will recur after treatment or become resistant to treatment.

Recruitment Update
The recruitment phase of the study has now concluded. Recruitment was drawn from the Pine Street Foundation’s public outreach efforts and with assistance from area hospitals, most notably the University of California at San Francisco.

Canine Update
At the Pine Street Foundation’s training location, we trained a team of five dogs, all of whom have reached the most advanced level of our training program. We have completed the analysis of the data and are now preparing the manuscript that will be reported in scientific publications.

Laboratory Update
Dr. Solouki and his team at Baylor University have worked diligently to continue to assess the utility of exhaled breath analysis as a way to detect meaningful ovarian cancer biomarkers. Dr. Solouki joined Michael McCulloch, the Pine Street Foundation’s Director of Research, at a conference sponsored by the Canary Foundation to present a poster session on our exhaled breath analysis study.

How You Can Become Involved
You can help support our efforts to spread the word on canine scent detection by making a donating to our research fund. Your support will help us publish this paper in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal that is Open Access, meaning that readers can access the full report without a costly scientific journal subscription. The page charges (that we have to pay) can cost $5,000 or more, so gifts of any size will really make a difference.

Johanna Altgelt, Kirk Turner, Michael McCulloch, Kathy O’Brien, and Jett Gulbronsen pose with Tessy and Captain Jennings at the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo, California
Johanna Altgelt, Kirk Turner, Michael McCulloch, Kathy O’Brien, and Jett Gulbronsen pose with Tessy and Captain Jennings at the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo, California
Tessy, a three-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, sniffs at boxes containing breath samples from women with ovarian cancer and from healthy controls and determines which is which
Tessy, a three-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, sniffs at boxes containing breath samples from women with ovarian cancer and from healthy controls and determines which is which
Tessy closes in on which breath sample was given by a woman with ovarian cancer
Tessy closes in on which breath sample was given by a woman with ovarian cancer


A breath sample cartridge inside a weighted training box
A breath sample cartridge inside a weighted training box
Canine Scent Detection

Lung Cancer Detection by Canine Scent: Will there be a lab in the lab?

A team of researchers led by R. Ehmann at Ambulante Pneumologie (Stuttgart, Germany) have published an article in the current issue of the European Respiratory Journal reporting on a study in which trained dogs detected lung cancer with sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 72% [1]. Their well-designed study involved 60 lung cancer patients and 110 healthy controls, and is novel for also including ‘‘disease controls’’; 50 patients with non-malignant lung disease. The findings of EHMANN et al. [1] corroborate the results of an earlier study of canine scent detection of lung cancer, which reported sensitivity and specificity of 99%. Together, these two papers, which achieved high accuracy while using different dogs, trainers and human subjects, beg the question of where this might all be leading. The purpose of this article is to review the evidence for canine scent detection of human cancers, and focus on how these papers may help advance knowledge in the field of lung cancer. There are very few published data on canine scent detection of cancers in general, or lung cancer in particular, and they vary widely in accuracy achieved and disease studied. However, the high accuracy of canine scent detection of lung cancer suggests dogs might, in the future, make some modest contribution to successes in lung cancer screening and detection.

The goal of accurate, safe and noninvasive methods to detect lung cancer in its early and curable stages is shared by patients, researchers and clinicians worldwide. However, lung cancer is all too often diagnosed at late stages. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths across the European Union, both in terms of standardised mortality rates and absolute numbers of people dying [2]. In 2010, an estimated 220,000 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed, and over 150,000 deaths occurred, making it the leading cause of cancer death in both males and females in the USA [3]. Early detection of lung cancer remains a challenge, despite recent evidence from the ongoing National Lung Screening Trial in the USA showing that lung cancer mortality can be reduced by up to 20% with low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) screening com- pared to chest radiography [4].

While patients diagnosed with advanced lung cancer have a 5-yr survival rate of ,5%, survival can increase to .70% for patients whose disease is identified early when the lesion is small and localised [4]. However, at first diagnosis, over 75% of patients have advanced stage disease. Identifying lung cancer early is crucial to improve treatment outcomes and patient survival. The low sensitivity of chest radiographs, combined with the low specificity and high radiation dose of CT scanning, limit the reliability and safety of these technologies as screening tools. Furthermore, cumulative radiation exposure resulting from the use of repeated CT scanning can increase the risk of developing cancer [5].

An alternative strategy to lung cancer detection is the improved accuracy that can be gained from combining several tests as screening tools; one possible candidate may be the use of exhaled breath analysis.

There is strong biological plausibility to the idea of dogs detecting lung cancer in exhaled breath. Both our paper [6] and that of EHMANN et al. [1], in the current issue of the European Respiratory Journal, used an independent validation phase in which dogs were able to distinguish lung cancer patient breath samples from controls, using samples from individuals not previously encountered in their training. Nevertheless, critics may turn up their nose at the mention of using sniffer dogs.

This may arise in part because there are very few published data on canine scent detection of cancers in general (n58) [1, 7–13], or lung cancer in particular (n52) [1, 9]. The findings of these studies vary widely in accuracy achieved and types of cancer studied, and papers on either replication of early findings or screening trials have not yet been published [14, 15]. It can be said, however, that the high-quality papers among those published, in which the investigators used rigorous patient selection, sample handling and dog training methods, have shown promising results.

Work toward the development of an ‘‘electronic nose’’ for cancer detection has been underway for several decades; how-
ever, dogs still appear to be ahead in the race and seem to have sniffed their way to the front of the line. We recently published a systematic review of all known data on the evidence for cancer biomarkers in exhaled breath [16], and a limited number of other research teams have published pilot data on exhaled breath analysis in lung cancer. There are no agreed standards for of these methods has limitations hampering their use for highly accurate lung cancer screening, and none have achieved the high sensitivity and specificity seen with dogs.

The first published report of detecting human disease in a specific organ system by odour appeared in a 3rd century BC Chinese medical text, the Nan Jing Classic of Difficulties.

‘‘[Every disease of the five solid organs is reflected in (externally observable) colour and smell. For diseases of the liver, it is a greenish colour and rank odour].’’

An earlier writing by Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC to ca. 370 BC) included a more general mention of odour changing in febrile patients in the medical text Prorrhetics II.

“[The (doctors) nostrils indicate much and well in (the case of) fever patients; the odours, however, differ a lot].”

Cancer detection by dogs
The first publication of a dog detecting cancer the case of a young female from the UK who remarked to a dermatologist examining a suspicious mole on her leg that her dog had been licking, nipping and barking energetically and persistently at the lesion [12]. The subject of this paper was then interviewed for a television documentary broadcast in 2006 in the UK [17]. Following the publication of our group’s lung and breast cancer paper [9], several dozen people have written letters reporting a similar story (data not shown).

A vision for the role of dogs in detecting cancer
Since we began our work in canine scent detection of lung cancer 10 yrs ago, we have frequently heard patients, clinicians and researchers lament about several critical issues at conferences, presentations and during scent trials: 1) the frustrations related to the slow progress in the forward movement of science, specifically with early detection; and 2) the anxieties caused by false positives and regrets resulting from false negatives, with current cancer screening and diagnostic methods. These com- ments from patients are understandable, given the frequent reports in the media about problems with lung cancer detection methods, whether it be the poor ability to detect lung cancer with chest radiographs, the hazards of cumulative radiation from CT scans, or the poor resolving power with small modules of the positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

However, imagine a future in which the term PET takes on a new meaning. Dogs could serve as an inspirational role, with the story of dogs detecting cancer in rigorous trials used as a friendly message to the public, perhaps encouraging patients who may be reluctant to seek medical help to do so.

Dogs could also serve a more pragmatic role. If enough funding were allocated to allow other research groups to replicate and refine the encouraging results of the two existing papers on canine scent extension of lung cancer [1, 9], dogs could be used as a noninvasive preliminary diagnostic screening tool or be used to help reduce false positives and false negatives of

existing imaging technologies. This would maximise the power of joint probabilities, similar to the combination of PSA and digital examination being more accurate than either method alone for detecting prostate cancer, or CA-125 and transvaginal ultrasound for detecting ovarian cancer.

In both the literal and the metaphorical sense, with the pub- lication of these papers on canine scent detection of lung cancer, dogs are once again demonstrating their ability to serve as protectors and guides. People worldwide feel a close affinity with the dog as a friend and protector. Whether or not sniffer dogs actually make it into the continuum of diagnostic evaluation has yet to be seen; their image could be employed in public health outreach for cancer screening, and may encourage people with worrisome symptoms to take earlier action. This would be a case of the dog acting as a shepherd; Lassie and Rin Tin Tin are still out there, looking out for our health.

None declared.

1 Ehmann R, Boedeker E, Friedrich U, et al. Canine scent detection in the diagnosis of lung cancer: revisiting a puzzling phenomenon. Eur Respir J 2012; 39: 669–676.

2 Malvezzi M, Arfe A, Bertuccio P, et al. European cancer mortality predictions for the year 2011. Ann Oncol 2011; 22: 947–956.

3 Jemal A, Siegel R, Xu J, et al. Cancer statistics, 2010. CA Cancer J Clin 2010; 60: 277–300.

4 Aberle DR, Berg CD, Black WC, et al. The National Lung Screening Trial: overview and study design. Radiology 2011; 258: 243–253.

5 Sodickson A, Baeyens PF, Andriole KP, et al. Recurrent CT, cumulative radiation exposure, and associated radiation-induced cancer risks from CT of adults. Radiology 2009; 251: 175–184.

6 McCulloch M, Jezierski T, Broffman M, et al. Diagnostic accuracy of canine scent detection in early- and late-stage lung and breast cancers. Integr Cancer Ther 2006; 5: 1–10.

7 Gordon RT, Schatz CB, Myers LJ, et al. The use of canines in the detection of human cancers. J Altern Complement Med 2008; 14: 61–67. 8 Horvath G, Jarverud GA, Jarverud S, et al. Human ovarian carcinomas detected by specific odor. Integr Cancer Ther 2008; 7: 76–80.

9 McCulloch M, Jezierski T, Broffman M, et al. Diagnostic accuracy of canine scent detection in early- and late-stage lung and breast cancers. Integr Cancer Ther 2006; 5: 30–39.

10 Pickel D, Manucy GP, Walker DB, et al. Evidence for canine olfactory detection of melanoma. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2004; 89: 107–116.

11 Sonoda H, Kohnoe S, Yamazato T, et al. Colorectal cancer screening with odour material by canine scent detection. Gut 2011; 60: 814–819.

12 Williams H, Pembroke A. Sniffer dogs in the melanoma clinic? Lancet 1989; 1: 734.

13 Willis CM, Church SM, Guest CM, et al. Olfactory detection of human bladder cancer by dogs: proof of principle study. BMJ 2004; 329: 712.

14 Moser E, McCulloch M. Canine scent detection of human cancers: a review of methods and accuracy. J Vet Behav 2010; 5: 145–152.

15 Lippi G, Cervellin G. Canine olfactory detection of cancer versus laboratory testing: myth or opportunity? Clin Chem Lab Med 2011 [Epub ahead of print DOI: 10.1515/cclm.2011.672].

16 Szulejko JE, McCulloch M, Jackson J, et al. Evidence for cancer biomarkers in exhaled breath. IEEE Sensors J 2010; 10: 185–210. 17 Can Dogs Smell Cancer? Storyville. BBC television documentary 2006. Available from:

Canine Scent Detection

New Training Consortium: Leveraging Our Experience to Expand Our Reach

Tessy closes in on which breath sample was given by a woman with ovarian cancer
Tessy closes in on which breath sample was given by a woman with ovarian cancer

As part of our canine scent detection program, we are providing mentorship for other researchers and dog trainers working to train dogs in scent detection.

This work is supported by a $100,000 two-year research grant from the prestigious Robmar Foundation.

We are expanding our work in developing the Human-Dog bond, building on our prior work with ovarian cancer to also include lung cancer and breast cancer. This establishes an important scientific requirement facing the field of canine scent detection in human health: replication of prior work by different groups working with different populations of patients.

We are providing educational and mentorship support to other researchers and trainers involved in training dogs to use their sense of smell in evaluating human health, leverging our more than thirteen years of experience with canine scent detection, expanding our reach beyond what has already been achieved within our own group. As we move forward with our own research projects, we wish to provide significant mentorship to other teams doing the same type of work. In our mentorship of other teams, we provide:

  • Mentorship (helping other teams turn their visions into reality with concrete project design)
  • Scientific support (helping other teams write proposals, analyze data, and publish results)
  • Training support (helping other dog trainers become better scent detection trainers), and
  • Collaborative support (helping other organizations with project management and data auditing support).

Our goal is to expand our reach through this mentorship and research and to help other groups spread the word through publication in scholarly journals and through media exposure.

So far, we’ve provided mentorship to the following groups and institutions:

Anna Vikko, Dog Trainer (Kuopio Finland)
Asociación Humanitaria Para la Proteccion Animal de Costa Rica (AHPPA) (Heredita, Costa Rica)
Bellamica Pictures (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Canine China Search and Rescue Organization (Beijing, China)
Children’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Dog Training Center for Search and Rescue (Slovenia)
Dutch Police Forensic Service (Zeeland, Netherlands)
Falco K9 Academy (Newcastle Co-Down, Northern Ireland)
Guide Dogs for the Blind (San Rafael, California)
Hawaii Canines for Independence (Makawao, Hawaii)
In Situ Foundation (Los Angeles, California)
Institute of Cancer (Lima, Peru) Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
Norwood Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
Thoracic Cancer Research and Detection Center Sheba Medical Center (Tel Hashomer, Israel)
Tufts University (Boston, Massachusetts)
Ulster Hospital (Belfast, Northern Ireland)

Click here to make a gift (of any amount) to help support this project.

Canine Scent Detection Recruitment

New Study: Women Needed

Recruitment for this research project is now complete. Should you want updates about this research project or to be notified about future opportunities to participate in one of our studies, please click here to sign up for our mailing list.

For our study on the early detection of ovarian cancer, we are seeking women with newly diagnosed or recurrent biopsy-confirmed ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, or primary peritoneal cancer in the San Francisco Bay Area to breathe through a special tube prior to beginning treatment. We also need women with endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome to give breath samples.

Canine Scent Detection Ovarian Cancer

Can Dogs Detect Cancer?

Can Dogs Detect Cancer?

Is there meaningful information contained within a person’s breath? Could this information lead to early detection of ovarian cancer? The Pine Street Foundation is seeking to answer these questions with novel, ground-breaking research.

Frequently Asked Questions
Can dogs really detect cancer? How did you collect breath samples? Click here for answers to these questions and more.

Canine Scent Detection of Ovarian Cancer
This study is currently in progress. Click here for the latest on this study as well as how you can participate.

Canine Scent Detection of Lung and Breast Cancer
This ground-breaking study was published in 2006. Click here for more information about this research as well as the full paper.

Canine Scent Detection Pine Street in the News

Montel Williams Across America

Pine Street in the HeadlinesOn Friday, December 4th, the Pine Street Foundation was featured on the “Montel Williams Across America” radio show.

Click here to listen to the interview

Canine Scent Detection Featured Pine Street in the News

People Magazine: Cancer-sniffing Dogs Could Save Lives

Pine Street in the HeadlinesCancer-sniffing Dogs Could Save Lives

Published in “People Magazine” August 17, 2009

At first glance, cancer researcher Michael McCulloch’s lab at the Pine Street Foundation in San Rafael, Calif., looks predictably humdrum — a computer, a few beakers and some vials. And yet, if you look a little closer, there’s something downright peculiar about the place. Most notably, the water bowls, leashes and the roll of paper towels used for sopping up slobber.

Canine Scent Detection Events

Presentation on August 6th: Can Dogs Detect Cancer?

Community EventThe Pine Street Foundation and the Women’s Cancer Awareness Group present:

“Can Dogs Detect Cancer?”

Thursday, August 6th, 2009 from 3:30p to 4:30p

Margaret Todd Senior Center
1560 Hill Road, Novato, CA

Click here for a map.

Cost: FREE
Please RSVP to ( 707) 769-8325 or by email.

Canine Scent Detection Events

Event on June 30th: Can Dogs Detect Cancer?

Community EventThe Pine Street Foundation & The Marin Humane Society present…

“Can Dogs Detect Cancer?”

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 from 12:15 to 1:15pm

Marin Humane Association
171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato, CA 94949

Click here for a map.

FREE event.
Priority seating will be given to Marin Humane Staff and Volunteers.
Others please RSVP to (415) 342-0886.

Come hear about important, federally funded, ovarian cancer research being conducted in the bay area and learn more about the symptoms and risks of ovarian cancer. A new video slideshow on this project will be presented and part of a short documentary related to training dogs in the scent detection of various cancers will be shown. There will be Q&A with The Pine Street Foundation’s Principal Investigator, Michael McCulloch, LAc, MPH, PhD. Informational literature on ovarian cancer from The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition will be available.

There will be a LIVE DEMO with the dogs from the trained dog team in this study.

Canine Scent Detection Featured Support

Volunteers Needed

Volunteers WantedWe are seeking two volunteers to help with one of our cancer research project in downtown San Anselmo, California. Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older. Please call (415) 342-0886 or email us if you’re interested in helping.

Volunteer Position 1
Light cleaning, set-up, and break-down on Mondays from Noon until 1pm (1 hour). Mopping floors after dogs leave, vacuuming, moving lightweight but bulky dog crates from one room to another, setting up room for breath sample subjects. You will be working with 1 to 2 other experienced volunteers.

Volunteer Position 2
Can you post fliers for us around Marin county for our cancer research study? Fliers are ready now and can be picked up in downtown San Anselmo or mailed to you.