Man’s best friend could soon become man’s best doctor.
According to US researchers, a dog named Frankie has been used to detect thyroid cancer in people.
Tests on 34 patients showed an 88% success rate in finding tumours.
The team, presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, said the animal had an “unbelievable” sense of smell.
The canine approach relies on dogs having 10 times the number of smell receptors as people and being able to pick out the unique smells being released by cancers.
A team at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) had previously showed that a dog could be trained to smell the difference between urine samples of patients with and without thyroid cancer.
Frankie the German Shepherd was trained to lie down when he could smell thyroid cancer in a sample and turn away if the urine was clean.
Thirty-four patients, who were going to hospital for conventional testing, took part in the trial.
Frankie gave the correct diagnosis in 30 out of 34 cases. There were two false positives and two patients who would have been incorrectly given the all-clear.