IUPUI researchers using dogs to sniff out prostate cancer

NDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Scientists at IUPUI are hoping man’s best friend can help solve one of man’s biggest problems.

Recently, a study in Italy found that dogs have the ability to smell and detect certain odors in urine that are associated with prostate cancer with 98% accuracy. A team at IUPUI, led by Dr.Mangilal Agarwal, is hoping to replicate that process and develop an early screening method.

“If we can find that smell in prostate cancer from urine, it can really change the way we diagnose prostate cancer right now,” Agarwal said.

Partnering with the Roudebush VA Medical Center, Agarwal says his team has potentially identified molecules that could be the key to the “odor test.”

The team is working with dog training service “Medical Mutts” to verify their work. The hope is then to create a sensor that can detect the odors. Agarwal says it would work similar to a “pregnancy test for prostate cancer.”

“So if you can make a sensor that is as accurate as a trained dog that can sniff prostate cancer from urine at 98% accuracy, then you are completely changing the field,” he said.

Agarwal says current tests for prostate cancer screening can be inaccurate and lead to unnecessary and painful biopsies, a fact that can deter many men from seeking the tests. Agarwal says if his team is successful, it would eliminate those problems.

“You can do the test in a clinic, you could do the test at home, same day results, and same day discussion with you doctor.  So there are a lot of advantages to having accurate tests that avoid biopsies,” he said.

Agarwal says so far the results of his team’s work are promising. He says they may be about four years away from finishing their study, developing a sensor and clearing clinical trials. However, he added that four years in “medical time” is relatively quick.

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