Fascinating New Cancer Tech of Biomarkers and Dogs’ Noses

Fascinating New Cancer Tech of Biomarkers and Dogs' Noses, Lynn R Webster, MD, @lynnrwebstermd


We are making headway in the fight against preventing, detecting, and treating cancer. You may already know that genes may someday hold the answers to treating, detecting, and even preventing cancer.

Improved Genetic Therapy for Cancer Treatment

You may also have heard that genetic therapy carries with it risks. But, according to the Genetic Literacy Project, scientists have recently found a way to make genetic therapy safer. In November 2016, the Genetic Literacy Project reported, “Scientists have developed a new safer gene therapy that may reduce the risk of cancer and can be used for many blood diseases” by altering the way in which a virus carries a beneficial gene to its target cell. This reduces the risk of cancer and can also be used for many blood diseases.

However, genetic therapy is only the beginning. It’s just a small part of precision medicine which, according to Drug Discovery World, now “allows insights into the disease processes that underlie clinical disease.”

What Are the New Diagnostic Techniques for Cancer?

These insights are leading to such novel and new cancer diagnostic techniques as liquid biopsies. This is an important pursuit, because traditional biopsies are invasive and risky. Unfortunately, sometimes, the risks of biopsies are not clearly communicated.

In contrast, liquid biopsies can be conducted on a blood sample. Collecting blood carries with it far less risk. The biopsy is a blood sample, not a tissue sample excised with a scalpel or pincher device often under anesthesia.

Clinicians can look for cancer cells in the blood, or parts of DNA from tumor cells that are circulating in the blood. But, because the liquid biopsy relies on finding cancer cells, or parts of DNA from cancer cells, in the blood, it so far has had only limited success at finding early-stage cancers.

Diagnosing cancer through breath-based biomarker detection testing seems promising as well, although it is rarely routinely used in clinical settings. According to Drug Discovery World, “Improvements combining high sensitivity to VOCs [volatile organic compounds) and flexibility and reproducibility in sample collection allow breath biomarkers to be incorporated into early clinical trials and also to be used to screen and stratify patients for those new therapies.” This is a scientific explanation of how bio-physics can be important in future diagnostic tools. Dr. “Bones” McCoy’s medical practice may not be completely sci-fi anymore. (Bones, as you might know, was the first chief medical officer of Star Trek.)

How Can Dogs Aid in the Fight Against Cancer?

If the high-tech wizardry behind detecting cancers is impressive, here’s another tool that scientists are using in the fight against cancer: canines. According to CNN, some dogs can be trained to detect cancer more reliably than lab tests.

The British organization, Medical Detection Dogs, are implementing dogs’ powerful sense of smell to sniff out cancer. According to the Medical Detection Dogs web site, “Because dogs are able to detect tiny odour concentrations, around one part per trillion (the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic sized swimming pools), we are potentially able to detect diseases, such as cancer, much earlier than is currently possible. Our pioneering work could help to speed up the diagnosis process and impact on thousands of lives.”

Many young children report that older people often have peculiar smells. Of course, this could be due to many non health reasons, but maybe some of the odors of elderly people are biomarkers for some diseases. Most of the odors can relate to bad breath which can be an indication of oral decay and bacteria growth. Some people with dyspepsia may also have an odorous presence. These aromatic findings may be early biomarkers for disease.

Medical Detection Dogs is currently training dogs to detect urological cancers, breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, bowel cancer, and other cancers and disease. One day, instead of sending you for a colonoscopy or a mammogram, your doctor might send you to a clinic staffed with canines whose noses have a better success rate than anything that was available before.


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The Painful Truth @lynnrwebstermd Lynn R. Webster


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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD

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