Scientists plan UK clinical trial of rats trained to sniff out cancer

Scientists plan UK clinical trial of rats trained to sniff out cancer

EEK! Israeli scientists who have trained rats to sniff out lung cancer from human urine claim the rodents are 90 per cent accurate… and now they want to do a clinical trial in the UK

  • Israeli scientists hope the rats will be able to sniff out additional forms of cancer
  • Patients supply a urine sample from home which the lab rats then sniff  

Rats could soon be deployed in the UK to sniff out the early signs of cancer following a successful lab trial.

Scientists in Israel have trained the rodents to detect scents that identify lung cancer, and believe the technique could eventually be used to diagnose other forms of the disease from a sample which patients can supply from home.

Rats are known for their highly sensitive sense of smell. During the trial, the mammals were presented with human urine samples, some of which came from lung-cancer patients. The rats were able to correctly spot which samples came from those with cancer nine times out of ten.

Early Labs, the company behind the testing, now plans to set up clinical trials in the UK.

Avichay Porat, the research centre’s chief operating officer, said: ‘A simple urine test to detect early stages of different types of cancer – which can be taken at home, a nearby pharmacy or community clinic and sent to the lab for quick results – is a real game-changer.’

Israeli scientists have trained lab rats to sniff out traces of cancer in human urine 

The rats are 90 per cent successful in identifying whether the sample comes from a patient with lung cancer. Scientists hope the rats could then identify the other types of cancer

Each year about 50,000 Britons are diagnosed with lung cancer, and 35,000 people die from the disease, making it the UK’s biggest cancer killer. Experts say early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment.

Recent studies have suggested that certain cancers can trigger specific body odours, which is caused by how the diseased cells interact with the immune system. This means these scents can be found in bodily fluids such as sweat, blood and urine.

Researchers at Early Labs have spent two-and-a-half years exposing lab rats to urine samples of lung-cancer patients so they can recognise this odour.

The rats were presented with a conveyor belt of urine samples throughout the trial, which they smelt through a hole. If they stopped smelling a sample and turned away, it counted as a negative specimen – one which did not contain cancer. But if the rats continued to smell the sample for an extended period of time, this was then considered to be one with the disease.

The trial found that the trained rats were able to accurately spot lung-cancer samples 93 per cent of the time. The technique is also being tested on colon cancer samples, and the scientists behind the sniff test believe it could offer a way of diagnosing the disease outside of a hospital.

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