German researchers have found that sniffer dogs could be used for the early detection of lung cancer. The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, is the first to find that sniffer dogs can reliably detect lung cancer.

The study aimed to assess whether sniffer dogs could be used to identify a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is linked to the presence of cancer in the breath of patients. The researchers worked with 220 volunteers, including lung cancer patients, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, and healthy volunteers. They used dogs that had been specifically trained.

The researchers carried out a number of tests to see if the dogs were able to reliably identify lung cancer compared with healthy volunteers and volunteers with COPD, and whether the results were still found with the presence of tobacco.

The dogs successfully identified 71 samples with lung cancer out of a possible 100. They also correctly detected 372 samples that did not have lung cancer out of a possible 400.

The dogs could also detect lung cancer independently from COPD and tobacco smoke. These results confirm the presence of a stable marker for lung cancer that is independent of COPD and also detectable in the presence of tobacco smoke, food odors, and drugs.

Source: European Lung Foundation