Award for canine charity director

Claire Guest and her dog, Daisy
Claire Guest and her dog, Daisy

The co-founder and director of a pioneering charity has been honoured with an award.

Claire Guest, who is the driving force behind Medical Detection Dogs, has been given a British Citizen Award for her charity’s life-saving work in the management of long-term illnesses and research into early cancer detection.

Based in Great Horwood, Medical Detection Dogs is a world leader in its research into dogs’ ability to scent the volatile substances in cancer cells.

Dr Guest was among 28 exceptional individuals who were recognised with a British Citizen Award at a medal presentation ceremony at the House of Lords last Thursday.

She said: “I am immensely grateful for this award and the recognition of our work at Medical Detection Dogs.

“I am very proud of how far we have come in the seven years since we started out.

“Last year alone we made incredible progress, with the approval of our application to begin a significant trial into the ability of dogs to detect breast cancer.

“In 2015, the trial will begin and by the end of the year we expect to be collecting some very interesting results.”

The event, hosted by Baroness Cox and supported by The i Paper, saw people from all over the country recognised for the positive impact they have had on society.

They were each presented with a Medal of Honour inscribed with the words ‘For the good of the country’, presented by TV personality Michael Underwood.

Medals were presented for categories including services to community, volunteering and charitable giving, business, industry, health, education and overseas achievement.

The medallists, nominated in October, had their nominations assessed by three independent panels before being ratified. They are now entitled to use the initials BCA after their name.

Founded in 2008, Medical Detection Dogs has trained dogs to screen thousands of urine samples collected from volunteers since its inception.

It also provides medical assistance dogs to individuals with long-term illnesses, such as diabetes and Addison’s disease.

The charity is in the application stage for a large-scale trial into the detection of prostate cancer.

The two trials into prostate and breast cancer, using urine and breath samples respectively, should provide further evidence of the dogs’ reliability.

Training trials completed in 2011 showed the dogs achieve 93 per cent reliability in screening prostate cancer samples – compared with traditional PSA tests, which have a 75 per cent false positive rate.

Dr Guest said: “Early cancer diagnosis is particularly poor in the UK. Statistics released last week show that 25 per cent of cancer diagnoses are made too late.

“The earlier we can diagnose cancer, the better chance patients have of defeating it in time.

“Our aim at Medical Detection Dogs is to expand our operation to the extent that we can provide reliable, non-invasive secondary screening to people throughout the country.”

The charity’s second arm, providing medical assistance dogs, is so in demand that there is currently a four-year waiting list.

There are current 50 diabetes assistance dogs living with brittle Type 1 diabetics.

These individuals experience none of the usual warning signs of dangerously high or low blood sugar levels.

The medical assistance dogs are able to detect the onset of a hypoglycaemic episode and alert their partners.

Medical Detection Dogs receives no government funding and relies entirely on charitable donations.