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Dogs Training To Sniff Cancer In Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA -

Imagine if your dog could tell you when you have cancer. That's what some canines in Philadelphia are being trained to do. Fox's Dr. Marc Siegel gives us the details.

More than 14,000 women die of ovarian cancer in the United States every year, making it one of the top cancer killers. There are no specific symptoms and the cancer is hidden deep in the body.

If found early, most women would survive.

Enter man and woman's best friend.

Animals are crucial to science. Bats and dolphins led to the development of the ultrasound.

Now, man's best friend is helping us sniff out cancer before it's too late.

Ovarian cancer has a characteristic odor and few animals can smell it better than dogs can.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are figuring out the exact chemicals that dogs smell when they detect this cancer.

When a human smells beef stew, they smell the whole stew. When a dog smells the stew, they smell the different components. How does that apply to dogs smelling cancer?

"What we think is that the cancer smell is like the beef in the beef stew and so the dogs can pick out that individual odor of just the beef," said Dr. Cindy Otto, of the Penn Working Dog Center.

The next step in the process, which takes place at the Monell Senses Center, is to narrow down, through analytical chemistry, which volatile odor the dog is smelling and transfer that information to an electronic sensor or artificial nose.

Holding up an apple, Monell's Dr. George Preti says, "This is the size of a tumor when it is generally diagnosed it is hidden it is inside the female."

Then, holding up an aspirin, he said, "This is the size when it should be diagnosed."

"So this is what we are striving for, to go from here," Preti said, referring to the apple, "where most of the ovarian cancers are diagnosed today, to here (the aspirin) or even less than this."

When ovarian cancer is found early, more than 90 percent survive five years.

Now, an unlikely team of veterinarians, chemists and oncologists – experts who almost never work together – are joining forces to save many lives, Siegel reported.

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