Davies Oncologist Embarks on Study to Train Dogs to Detect Canine Bladder Cancer

Davies Veterinary Specialists

Pet Owners, Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Professionals

1st October 2017

An Oncology Specialist at Davies Veterinary Specialists (Davies) in Hertfordshire has embarked on a study to determine if dogs can be trained to detect canine transitional cell carcinoma in the odour of urine.

Isabelle Desmas-Bazelle, who is one of three Oncology Specialists at Davies, is currently working on a project to find an affordable, rapid and non-invasive diagnostic test for canine urinary transitional cell carcinoma by training dogs to detect this cancer type in the odour of their urine. Isabelle’s work follows studies in human medicine where the use of detection dogs to identify bladder cancer from its odour is already paving the way for the development of an ‘eNose’ as an inexpensive, non-invasive point of care diagnostic instrument.

Urinary transitional cell carcinoma is the most common bladder cancer in dogs. Clinical signs are shared with several other urinary tract disorders and diagnosis may be difficult to achieve, as taking a urine sample via a needle (cystocentesis) is inadvisable as it may cause the tumour to spread. For a definitive diagnosis histopathology of a biopsy sample is needed. However, this is invasive, costly, and increases the length of time required to obtain final results, which can delay the start of treatment.

The study is taking urine samples from healthy dogs without urinary tract abnormalities and from dogs with urinary transitional cell carcinoma or non-malignant urinary tract disease. These samples are being used to train dogs to distinguish those with urinary TCC from diseased and healthy controls. Next, a proof of principle study will be performed on a bigger sample size in order to achieve calculation of sensitivity and specificity of this innovative diagnostic test. No experimental animals have been or will be used and the urine collected is leftovers from clinical patients.

Isabelle Desmas-Bazelle said: “We speculate that trained dogs can detect tumour related volatile compounds present in the urine and accurately diagnose cancer patients. Further studies could use the same principle on other cancer and tissue types. Ultimately our results could be used for comparative oncology for human cancers.”

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