UC Davis Believes Dogs Can Help ‘Sniff Out’ Cancer

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SACRAMENTO--

Something unusual and innovative is happening at UC Davis' Cancer Center.

"Two of our youngest professors in the department, Professor Alfie and Professor Charlie," said Hilary Brodie, professor and chair of UC Davis Department of Otolaryngology.

Their sense of smell is impecable.  Their age: four months.

They are Labradoodle Alfie and German Shepherd Charlie.  Doctors at UC Davis Medical Center believe the dogs will advance medicine by detecting cancer in early stages.

"The dogs are very very good at telling you not only is this a lump but it is cancer, or it's a lump but it's not cancer," said canine training expert Dina Zaphiris.

Zaphiris will spend the next 18 months training the pair of puppies to identify throat and neck cancer in saliva, breath and urine.  She's been doing this work for over a decade.

"In published studies not only from my research but all over the world.  The dogs are accurate, more accurate than any machine or diagnostic device to day, and they can find it at early stage," Zaphiris said.

Zaphiris chose Alfie and Charlie not just because of their noses but also their drive and motivation.

"Our goal is not to train them to do this, but to actually use them as a tool to save lives in the community," said Peter Belafsky, professor of Otolaryngology.

Doctors hope the dogs will start officially sniffing out cancer in patients by 2018.  If all goes as planned, man's best friend will soon detect cancer better and earlier than any machine can.