Israeli startup detects ‘cancer odor’ using dogs' sense of smell

A man sits with his dog in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 26, 2020.

Israeli biotech startup SpotitEarly recently raised $6.2 million – in a funding round led by Hanaco Ventures – to further develop its technique of detecting cancers early with the olfactory ability of dogs.

Using a combination of algorithms and artificial intelligence using the sense of smell of dogs, the firm’s technology can detect the presence of several cancers including lung, prostate, breastand colon, Calcalist reported.

The test was developed with the discovery of “cancer odor” – cancerous tumors in their early stages secrete, first into the blood and then into the respiratory system.

Each type of cancer carries a unique odor, and most have a common attribute.

Dogs are able to detect these odors in a fraction of a second, and their sensitivity to the “cancer odors” is proven to be greater than those of any medical tests or devices currently in use.

For screenings, a patient breathes for five minutes into a designated mask, which is placed in a hermetically sealed package and sent to SpotitEarly’s lab. From there, the sample is inserted into sniffing ports, which trained dogs then go through.

Each package is scanned by a number of canines who can detect an odor associated with a positive cancer sample, according to Calcalist.

The unique methodology holds the potential to save lives or alternatively spare long months of stress while waiting for scanning results for healthy patients. With SpotitEarly, the scanning process takes seconds, and for the dogs, they experience it as simulated playtime.

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