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Dogs Might Be Able To Sniff Out Some Forms Of Cancer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- They detect drugs, they know when people are about to have seizures, and now dogs may be able to tell when people have cancer.

As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, that could lead to an at-home test for some cancers.

"People have never thought that dogs can smell molecules that relate to cancer, and recent studies show that they can," said Dr. Mangilal Agarwal of Indiana University-Purdue University's Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases.

Dogs seem to be be able to smell certain odors in the urine of prostate cancer patients.

"So our big question is to see what dogs are smelling," Agarwal said.

Researchers are hoping to identify the molecules the dogs are sniffing and develop an early screening method that works sort of like Fido's nose. Then they'll use the dogs to help test their technology. It could be a sensor that works like a home pregnancy test, only for prostate cancer.

"You can do the test in a clinic, you can do the test at home," Agarwal said. "And the same-day results and same-day discussion with you doctor."

The key would be how sensitive and how specific such a test would be. Both would have to be demonstrated to the FDA in order to receive approval. But given the imperfections of the current PSA test, this could change the way prostate cancer is diagnosed.

Researchers add it could be years before such screening tests would be available.

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