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Sniffing Out Cancer With Electronic Noses

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the smells-like-trouble dept.

Medicine 22

An anonymous reader writes "We may soon be able to obtain easy and early diagnoses of diseases by smell. This week researchers found one odor-sniffing machine was as good as a mammogram at detecting breast cancer — and many other devices capable of spotting other diseases may be on the way."

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FeFiFoFum BETA! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46444869)

I smell the blood of an englishman!

LaDeDa! BETA! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46444931)

La-de-dah!

La-de-dah!

As good as mammogram (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46444973)

So, not good at all?

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/health/study-adds-new-doubts-about-value-of-mammograms.html

Re:As good as mammogram (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about 5 months ago | (#46445023)

The issue with mammograms is inappropriate mass screening; they're still a useful diagnostic tool, and have a benefit in routine screening in high-risk populations. If this device has the same false positive/negative rate as mammograms but is less intrusive and doesn't involve X-ray, that'd improve the benefits for those groups even futher.

Now, there is a related issue that any more-convenient diagnostic tool runs an even higher risk of being overapplied.

Dogs have been able to do this forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46444979)

No need to re-invent the wheel. Just get a good Labrador Retriever.

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 5 months ago | (#46445201)

The trick, it seems, would be how to train the dog to react to the cancer smell, and only the cancer smell... Need isolated control samples for the dogs to know what to detect... Then a training program for the dogs, and distribution.
Certainly sounds like it could get better compliance rates then sticking peoples body parts between cold plates and bombarding them with flesh penetrating radiation....

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 5 months ago | (#46445391)

Replying to myself, I just took a glance at TFA(I know, I know) and yes, they do cover dogs and other animals... (fruit flies, rats, etc.)
Finding a good animal training program sounds like it would be a great alternative for 3rd world countries that might not be able to afford state of the art sniffing devices.

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

tiberus (258517) | about 5 months ago | (#46445537)

I've seen demos (albeit on TV documentations) of dogs having been trained for cancer detection. While I can see it might be a boon in third world countries, where folks tend not be to as uptight as most are on this side of the pond, I don't see it catching on in the U.S. I just can't imagine folks laying on a table (the kind where each arm and leg is supported separately) in their skivvies and letting Toto go for a bit of a walk while he sniffs your wobbly bits.

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (4, Interesting)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#46445807)

I've seen demos (albeit on TV documentations) of dogs having been trained for cancer detection. While I can see it might be a boon in third world countries, where folks tend not be to as uptight as most are on this side of the pond, I don't see it catching on in the U.S. I just can't imagine folks laying on a table (the kind where each arm and leg is supported separately) in their skivvies and letting Toto go for a bit of a walk while he sniffs your wobbly bits.

Here's the thing I've noticed about people's reactions to cancer-sniffing dogs: It's not the 'dog sniffing your junk' part that bothers most people, it's the whole "finding out you have some sort of cancer." My wife used to work at a vet clinic that had a cancer-sniffer as a regular patient, and some patrons (who knew of the terrier's powers) would go out of their way to stay as far away from the dog as possible, presumably because they didn't want to know.

BTW, having personally observed the abilities of some canines to sniff out things like cancerous tumors? Mind-blowing; would probably be doubly so if I weren't so well-read about dogs.

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46446191)

Just to add to this, the dogs arent sniffing anyone's private, the test is done with the client's pee, it's installed in a carousel with other urine sample, the dogs goes and sniff all the test sample and sits in front of the urine sample that has the cancer odor, it cant tell you what type of cancer, just that you should now think about getting tested, this is to prevent very intrusive and painfull biopsy.

Saw this on british show,

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

Nehmo (757404) | about 5 months ago | (#46446615)

So there's something in the urine that indicates a tumor. Thus, when Fluffy meanders the neighborhood, he can tell if the locals are getting sick. -- This sure was an unfortunate evolutionary decision for us humans to forsake the accurate smelling apparatus.

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 5 months ago | (#46448417)

Probably very sensitive to prostate cancer, maybe not so much for a brain tumor?

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 5 months ago | (#46448393)

A. You have cancerous cells in your body, guaranteed - it's a question of how many and whether or not they are multiplying out of control, and that can be a grey area.

B. Unless you just sterilized your mouth to an unhealthy level of bacterial absence, you also have halitosis, same as above....

It's not too surprising that "sniffers" thousands of times more sensitive than our own noses can pick out the chemical signature of larger active tumors, just like we can tell when somebody needs to brush and floss... the psychological aspect of not wanting to know about the cancer is an interesting one, I can totally understand people who'd rather go when their time has come instead of submitting to chemo/radio therapy...

Re:Dogs have been able to do this forever (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 5 months ago | (#46445817)

I've seen demos (albeit on TV documentations) of dogs having been trained for cancer detection. While I can see it might be a boon in third world countries, where folks tend not be to as uptight as most are on this side of the pond, I don't see it catching on in the U.S. I just can't imagine folks laying on a table (the kind where each arm and leg is supported separately) in their skivvies and letting Toto go for a bit of a walk while he sniffs your wobbly bits.

Well, at least Toto has a good bedside manner.

Early Detection (5, Informative)

johnnyb (4816) | about 5 months ago | (#46445141)

The problem with early detection is that many diseases are actually benign in their early stages, and, when detected, their detection can actually cause more harm for the patient. For instance, early cancer detection increases the likelihood that the patient will start chemo. Some cancers wind up being handled by the body, but *all* chemo treatments harm patients. So, early detection sometimes leads to more harm than benefit (plus an unfortunate issue with "success" rates - the cancer treatments get to include in their "success" count cancers that the body would have cleaned up anyway).

Re:Early Detection (3, Interesting)

somepunk (720296) | about 5 months ago | (#46445345)

Some treatment, maybe, possibly harmful, but not chemotherapy. That stuff is saved for the real hard cases, not dubious initial diagnoses. There's a lot of ambiguity and overreaction in medicine, but I don't think much of it is here.

Re:Early Detection (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 5 months ago | (#46448445)

Depends on doctor and hospital - they're putting people in their 30s with small superficial melanomas through chemo around here, not that I'm saying it's unwarranted, but maybe somewhere else they're even more aggressive...

Mammogram (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 5 months ago | (#46445217)

Mammogram machine manufacturers will raise a stink at these news.

... as good as ... (1)

jamesl (106902) | about 5 months ago | (#46446455)

... a mammogram.

A low bar.

Re: ... as good as ... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 5 months ago | (#46448489)

Not as good as a mammogram in from some points of view - the mammo can cause the disease it detects, thereby feeding the system additional cases to treat. Quote from a newly minted M.D. "whether or not the test causes the disease is irrelevant, we can treat it, so we're saving those who would have gone untreated and not harming those in whom we are causing the disease." assuming they continue to come back for future testing...

I guess the Hippocratic oath has gone out of fashion.

Can this ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46450085)

... work for pregnancy?

Pheromone detectors (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | about 5 months ago | (#46456359)

Let's be honest: we men want a sensor that will detect how badly a woman needs sex.

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