“PET SCAN” takes on new meanings when there are Labs in the Lab.


By Gayle Pruitt, CN

There are Paw Prints all over the history of man at least for the last 25,000 years.  Canines have lived with us and protected our families, helped us hunt, they have pulled heavy loads, were our friends, and they dined with us. And now these wonderful creatures play an even bigger role helping children read, giving veterans hope, finding illegal drugs, catching criminals, detecting bombs, and now these super sniffers are sniffing out dreaded diseases like cancer.

Michael McCulloch, LAc MPH PhD has been the Research Director  for  Pine Street Foundation since 1989 and Chinese Medical Practitioner of  Pine Street Clinic since 1983. He is also a Licensed Acupuncturist / Research Acupuncturist at Kaiser Hospital in Walnut Creek. Dr. McCulloch and his associates at the Pine Street Foundation are leaders in cancer research and detection. And now are researching dogs to sniff out many different forms of Cancer.

 According to the researchers at the Pine Street Foundation: a dog’s nose is considered, by both dog trainers and chemists alike, to be one of the world’s most powerful olfactory sensor, and was the “medical device” used in the research study of eighty-six people. Fifty-five in the study had lung cancer and thrity-one  had breast cancer, eighty-three  were healthy controls.  The five professionally trained scent dogs ability to correctly identify or rule-out lung and breast cancer, at both early and late stages, was around 90%. A more exact and specific discussion of the sensitivity and specificity of the dogs’ abilities is available in the complete study. – See more at: http://pinestreetfoundation.org/canine-scent-detection-breast-and-lung-cancer/#sthash.F4mOF5uV.dpuf

This work is based on the hypothesis that cancer cells emit different metabolic waste products than normal cells. The differences between these metabolic products are apparently so great that they can be detected by a dog’s keen sense of smell, even in the early stages of disease. In carefully controlled conditions, the dogs were presented with breath samples of both cancer patients and healthy controls. The dogs were trained by professional dog behaviorist Kirk Turner and the methods used in the field research were developed by Professor Jezierski. Not only did the dogs perform exceptionally well, they did so consistently over a lengthy four month investigation of 12,295 separate scent trials – each one documented on videotape. What is important about this study is that (1) ordinary dogs, with no prior scent discrimination training, could be rapidly trained to identify lung and breast cancer patients by smelling samples of their breath. When compared to blank unused sample tubes; (2) dogs could accurately and reliably distinguish breath samples of lung and breast cancer patients from those of healthy controls. And (3) the dog’s diagnostic performance was not affected by disease stage of cancer patients, age, smoking, or most recently eaten meal among either cancer patients or controls. – See more at:


 Short interview with Dr. McCulloch below:

What breed or breeds of dogs did you use in these studies? Did you use any mixed breeds? What breeds seem to perform better?

Dr. McCulloch:
We used many different breeds of dogs: mixed, pure, large and small. What has mattered more than breed or size is the dogs’ work ethic, and the relationship between trainer and dog.

How did you come up with using dogs for detection? How easy was it for your trainers to train your super sniffers?
Dr. McCulloch:
This work was inspired by the experience of Gill Lacey, whose life was saved by her dog when he detected a malignant melanoma when Gill was in her teens. This story was published as a medical case report.

What were some problems you had to overcome?

Dr. McCulloch:

One of the biggest challenges has been recruiting patients for trials.
We overcame this by developing positive collaborative relationships with oncologists.

Were there any interesting or personal stories during the study you could relate?

Dr. McCulloch
The most remarkable observation was the case of a dog who detected a woman’s breast cancer recurrence, while it was still localized in the surgical margin, 18 months before her disease was detected by follow-up MRI.

Any pertinent information you would like to highlight?

Dr. McCulloch
There is now over a dozen research teams around the world working on canine scent detection of cancer.

Whether you’ve known of Pine Street Foundation in the past or have only recently discovered their work, it is important to note that the Pine Street Foundation is one of the most efficient and cost-effective research organizations of its kind in the country. And since the vast majority of the funding comes from individual donors like you, your financial support truly helps Pine Street advance the field of integrative medicine and benefits those in need of better treatments. Please keep the Pine Street Foundation in mind – See more at: http://pinestreetfoundation.org/our-2012-accomplishments/#sthash.k4CVQCVw.dpuf

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