BY JENNY STOCKS
Daisy the labrador is hard at work on a project that could change your life and mine.
In her smart red jacket, she wanders around a metal carousel in a small centre outside Milton Keynes, sniffing at the different scents that are attached to its 12 spokes. Then she stops.
She’s found what she’s looking for and looks expectantly up at her handler — she knows that when she recognises this specific smell, she will soon get an edible reward.
Because what this seven-year-old dog is sniffing is a selection of samples from a local hospital. And she has just located the only one that came from a cancer patient.
Daisy, quite simply, is being taught to sniff out cancer. She is one of the world’s first bio-detection dogs — trained animals that may one day revolutionise medical diagnosis.
We all know that dogs have far more powerful noses than humans — indeed their sense of smell is up to 100,000 times better than ours.
But, in recent years, a dedicated team of researchers has been developing what is potentially an even greater breakthrough.
Earlier this year, German research discovered that dogs could sniff out lung cancer from breath samples of sufferers.
The four dogs in the study learned to get it right 71 per cent of the time, far too high to be mere coincidence.
Closer to home came the story of British pensioner Maureen Burns, who made headlines when her collie-cross Max started sniffing her breath and nudging her right breast — where it turned out she had a tiny cancerous tumour developing that doctors hadn’t yet picked up. .... read more