Dr Alan Makepeace
When I first heard of it, I was sceptical about the role of dogs in detecting prostate cancer by sniffing patients’ urine. However, on reflection, the idea was not so far-fetched – airport security relies on the ability of dogs to detect explosives and, by so doing, protect the lives of millions of air travellers each day. My scepticism was further confounded by the convincing demonstration of how Medical Detection Dogs, under scientifically controlled conditions, could differentiate between urine samples from healthy individuals and known cancer patients. Mainstream scientific research increasingly recognises the potential contribution of evolutionary nature to scientific endeavour and I view the research undertaken by Medical Detection Dogs as an extension of such a role to cancer medicine. The mere fact that dogs are the portal for a potential greater understanding of our abilities to detect and screen for cancers at an early stage should not mitigate against the further exploration of such techniques – in many ways such an approach should be encouraged.