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Dogs Help in Sniffing out Cancer [VIDEO]

Update Date: Aug 09, 2013 11:28 AM EDT
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Dogs are wonderful creatures that can be trained to perform humanly impossible tasks. Everyday, policemen, soldiers, and handicapped people trust their lives with these furry companions. Whether these dogs are sniffing out threats, such as bombs, or guiding a blind person safely across the street, it is safe to say that these loyal canines play a huge part in human lives. With strong noses and intelligence, these dogs can be trained to do other wonderful things as well. In a new program, trainers are trying to teach dogs how to sniff out ovarian cancer tissue and so far, these dogs have continued to wow humans.

At the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, there are currently 15 dogs in training to sniff out bombs, drugs and missing people. These amazing dogs are now being trained to see if they can sniff out ovarian cancer tissue. So far, Ohlin Frank the chocolate Labrador retriever has gone through three full training sessions and has already detected this silent killer with 100 percent accuracy. Frank's fellow classmate, McBaine Chamberlain, a springer spaniel is also a part of the training process that was developed from an interdisciplinary research project from the University of Pennsylvania. The goal is to help scientists find new ways of identifying a chemical footprint that would be used to help diagnose ovarian cancer in people earlier.

According to the National Cancer Institute, ovarian cancer killed over 14,000 women in the United States alone this year. The estimated number of new cases is 22,000. Ovarian cancer is very hard to treat because the cancer is relatively hard to detect. Once diagnosed, it is often considered to be too late. If this program can yield successful results, the fight against ovarian cancer would be strengthen greatly.

The Penn Vet found and its executive director, Cynthia M. Otto is optimistic that these dogs can learn the unique scent and help with future research. She believes that this process will take only two years. Once the unique scent is created, researchers plan on creating a device that would be used on humans to detect ovarian cancer tissue.

"All dogs are really good at sniffing, but part of what gives them a huge advantage over us is the surface area of the olfactory receptors," Otto explained to ABC News. "We had a party and played with them with toys. Then the game becomes, 'What do I have to do to get the tody?' They get really excited and quickly figure out what they have to do to get their toys."

The program is funded by the Kaleidoscope of Hope Ovarian Cancer Foundation. There are three studies involved, which are getting the dogs to sniff out the cancer, using that information to create an artificial nose, and then using nanotechnology to create a computerized screening test.

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