CancerDogs is a cancer screening service that uses specially trained dogs to detect the odor of all types of cancer present in a person’s exhaled breath. We developed an inexpensive and non-invasive breath sample kit that collects breath odor with a simple surgical mask that is worn for 10 minutes. Back at our facility, the breath samples are processed, placed into trays and loaded into our custom designed sniffing station where 4 dogs will systematically search, sniffing each sample multiple times.
Our program was born out of hard work and a desire to make a difference in a system that often fails to detect cancer early enough. What makes us both unique and successful is that we think outside the box of conventional medical research. The medical establishment is not interested in using dogs for cancer screening, no matter how accurate they are. So we started our own campaign for breath samples, speaking at cancer support groups and handing out flyers at cancer walks and runs. It was very much a grassroots effort receiving a lot of public support. We appeared on a local morning TV show and eventually we collected enough samples to begin training 4 dogs. After conducting our own double blind evaluation we decided it was time to start a trial. In 2010, we tested samples from 1,000 volunteers. In 2011 we began working with firefighters specifically because they are at greater risk of developing cancer, due to their chronic exposure to carcinogens. We started with small volunteer departments and in 2013 we began working with Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. This partnership has been invaluable. It has allowed us to learn and improve our training and testing protocols. Today we have an effective screening program that can protect firefighters from the tragedy of a late-stage cancer diagnosis.
Currently we work with firefighters in over 100 cities in the United States including Chicago, Fort Worth, Dallas and San Antonio and look forward to working with others. See our Firefighter Cancer Screening Trials page for more information on how to join.
Our goal is to create a cancer screening system for firefighters that will become the model for screening the general public.