Although the first suggestion of this approach in a medical journal dates back to 1989, there were only occasional publications on the subject in the next decade.
However, two studies (one published in 2004 and one in 2006) had promising results, with the 2006 report claiming a 99 percent accuracy in detecting lung cancer, although both studies were preliminary and involved small numbers of patients.
There are two proposed benefits, assuming that further studies corroborate the initial results.
Some researchers believe that dogs will become integrated directly into patient care, akin to their use in detecting bombs, drugs, and missing people.
Others recommend that the skill of dogs in detecting cancer would be more appropriately confined to labs, where gas chromatographs could be used to isolate which specific compounds the dogs identified. Recent developments include a simple breathalyser which changes colour according to the compounds in the breath, indicating the presence of cancer.
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^ Church J, Williams H (2001). "Another sniffer dog for the clinic?". Lancet358 (9285): 930. PMID 11575380.
^ Willis CM, Church SM, Guest CM, et al (2004). "Olfactory detection of human bladder cancer by dogs: proof of principle study". BMJ329 (7468): 712. doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7468.712. PMID 15388612.
^ USA Today - "Study shows dogs able to smell cancer"
^ McCulloch M, Jezierski T, Broffman M, Hubbard A, Turner K, Janecki T (2006). "Diagnostic accuracy of canine scent detection in early- and late-stage lung and breast cancers". Integrative cancer therapies5 (1): 30–9. doi:10.1177/1534735405285096. PMID 16484712.