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Colorectal Cancer No Match for Tumor-Sniffing Dog?

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Scientists in Japan say they've trained a Labrador retriever to detect colon cancer. (istockphoto) istockphoto

(CBS) Some dogs have trouble with basic commands like "Sit" and "Fetch." Marine's moved on something a bit more complicated:

"Detect colon cancer."

It's no joke. Researchers in Japan say the specially trained Labrador retriever can literally sniff out colorectal cancer with 98 percent accuracy.

Marine's initial training was for water rescue, and she had already demonstrated an ability to detect 12 different kinds of cancer simply by taking a whiff of patients' breath, HealthDay reported.

To find out if Marine could also detect colon cancer, researchers led by Dr. Hideto Sonoda, a professor of surgery at Kyushu University in Fukuoda, Japan, let her sniff samples of stool and exhaled breath from 30 people with colorectal cancer and 320 healthy people.

Marine was able to tell cancerous samples in 33 or 36 breath tests and in 37 of 38 stool tests, according to HealthDay. Just as impressive, she was good at detecting early-stage cancers - something that isn't always possible with fecal occult blood screening, a noninvasive test in which blood in the stool reveals the presence of cancer.

What's Marine's secret?

"Scientists suspect that the dog recognizes the scent of volatile chemicals present in colon cancer," the American Cancer Society's Dr. Ted Gansler told Aol. "These chemicals are apparently released from the cancer cells into the feces and also absorbed into the bloodstream and then released into air as blood flows through the lungs."

Will a cancer-detecting mutt be on hand for your next doctor's visit? Don't bet on it. Given the cost and time required to train dogs like Marine, doctors are hoping to develop a new sensor capable of detecting the same cancer-specific compounds Marine detected, the Daily Mail reported.

Marine's cancer-screening prowess was described in a report published in the Jan. 31 online edition of the journal "Gut."

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