Dog detects thyroid cancer by smelling urine – and is correct nearly nine times out of 10

A dog is able to sniff out thyroid cancer from urine samples and has had an accuracy rate of around 88 per cent.

Frankie, a scent-trained German Shepherd mix, is the first dog taught to have been taught to differentiate benign thyroid disease from thyroid cancer by smelling a person’s urine.


He is trained to lie down when he can detect cancer and turn away if he cannot pick out smells caused by defective cells. Neither the dog handler or study coordinator knew which sample was which.

Frankie gave the correct diagnosis for each sample in 30 out of 34 cases. There were two false positives and two false negatives, in which the latter would have wrongly been given the all-clear.

The 34 patients in the trial were undergoing conventional treatment for their illnesses. Nineteen of them were diagnosed as having thyroid disease and 15 were found to have cancer.

Frankie smelling a sample of urine in a research laboratory Canine detection can prevent unnecessary thyroid surgeries as the current diagnostic methods for the cancer are often unreliable, said Dr Donald Bodenner, senior researcher and chief of endocrine oncology at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“The capability of dogs to smell minute amounts is unbelievable,” Dr Bodenner told the BBC.

“The medical community over the next few years is going to have a great appreciation [for them]. We would like to know what Frankie is smelling, nobody knows.”

Dr Bodenner plans to expand the program by collaborating with Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine to train the veterinary school’s bomb-sniffing dogs to become trained thyroid cancer detectors.

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