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Kennel Club Charitable Trust funds four-legged fight against cancer

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust is providing vital funds to aid research into the detection of human cancer by dogs. The Charitable Trust has awarded a grant of £10,000 to pay for the training of a dog to assist in this pioneering project.

The money has been given to the Amerderm Research Trust to help them further their research into the ability of dogs to detect human cancer cells using their remarkable sense of smell. This follows a groundbreaking study published in the British Medical Journal in September 2004, which proved that dogs can be successfully trained to detect bladder cancer from the odour of urine.
The funds will be used to aid further research, which will now be carried out by the Amerderm Research Trust at Amersham Hospital in Buckinghamshire in collaboration with trainers from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. The project will seek to improve the dogs’ accuracy in detecting bladder cancer even further, and training dogs to detect other cancers, such as prostate and skin cancer.

The basis of the research is that cancer cells are known to produce chemical compounds which are different from those made by normal healthy cells, and it is believed that some of these are likely to have distinctive odours. The research will seek to identify the chemicals that give bladder tumours their odour followed by the development of ‘electronic noses’ to mimic the dogs’ scenting abilities.

There are currently six dogs involved in the research – four working Cocker Spaniels and two Labradors – all of whom are kept as pets in the homes of their trainers. They are usually trained four or five times a week for an hour at a time and the trainers use conventional positive reinforcement techniques to help train the dogs. The dogs are required to smell the specimens and to gradually learn to discriminate positive from negative samples. The dogs indicate positive samples to their handler by lying down next to them. Vets and microbiologists have confirmed that such tests pose no health risk to the dogs involved.

Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, said: ‘The fight against cancer is one of the greatest challenges faced by mankind, and we recognise that dogs may have a potentially vital role to play in this task. The work already carried out by the Amerderm Research Trust is extremely promising and we are delighted to be able to help them further this pioneering project.