Detection dogs get green light for bowel cancer trial

CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, Dr Claire Guest
CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, Dr Claire Guest

Pioneering medical research charity Medical Detection Dogs has received the green light for the first ever canine trial to detect bowel cancer.

Great Horwood-based Medical Detection Dogs has won ethical approval for a large colorectal cancer detection trial, to see if dogs can reliably detect the scent of cancer from urine samples.

The charity is working in partnership with Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust to collect and test 2,000 urine and stool samples from both healthy volunteers and those diagnosed with cancer.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has backed the charity’s research work. In an interview with the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme broadcast on Monday, Mr Hunt said: “I think ideas like this sometimes don’t get looked at as quickly as they should, because they sometimes get put in the quackery box.

“I will personally look at this research when it comes through. One of our jobs as MPs is to question orthodoxies and look at different ways of doing things that possibly the establishment has swept under the carpet.

“If this research is good, I want to know about it.”

Mr Hunt acknowledged that the UK lags behind the rest of Europe in cancer survival rates.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in the UK, with around 42,000 cases diagnosed each year.

The five-year survival rate in England is 51 per cent, compared with a European average of 57 per cent. In Germany the survival rate is 62 per cent.

Like all cancers, colorectal cancer is best treated when diagnosed early. It is hoped that a quick, easy and non-invasive test would encourage more people to get tested.

CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, Claire Guest, said: “We are delighted this colorectal cancer trial can now get under way. If our trial shows dogs can detect colorectal cancer in urine samples, the potential is there for a quick, non-invasive test, which could encourage far higher rates of testing and therefore early diagnosis. We are grateful to the Health Secretary for his support and look forward to presenting him with the results of our trial when they are published.”