Watch Frankie in action!
*Video copyright permissions granted by author AM Hinson and Journal of VideoEndocrinology.
Teaching a dog to accurately and reliably alert to a cancerous sample is a science unto itself. Finding and training the right dog is, in and of itself, another fine science. Our methodologies have evolved based upon our dogs and our continued experience. You can see how our methodology has progressed from our initial (top left) to our current efforts (right).
Canine Detection reliability
We are developing a training methodology that has already resulted in a high degree of accuracy in the detection of thyroid cancer.
In our first study, we demonstrated that dogs are 97% accurate in the retrospective discrimination of both cancer and benign (non-cancerous) urine samples of thyroid cancer patients. Utilizing blood, the dogs are 100% accurate*. In other words, we have shown that our dogs can be taught to distinguish both cancerous and non-cancerous patient samples with a high degree of accuracy and reliability.
*Work was published in VideoEndocrinology [Ferrando AA, Hinson, AM, Wilkerson BM, Stack BC, Jr, Bodenner DL Canine Detection of Metastatic Thyroid Cancer VideoEndocrinology 2014; 4(1).]
Why thyroid cancer?
We started our investigations in thyroid cancer for several reasons. First, it is rapidly becoming one of the 4 most common cancers throughout the world. Second, it is often a difficult process to clinically diagnose thyroid cancer. Third, our unique investigative team permitted access to thyroid cancer patients, which permitted the scientific development of our methodology. Our goal is to apply what we learn through investigations in thyroid cancer to other forms of cancer such as, but not limited to, ovarian, breast, prostate, colorectal, pancreatic, lung, and liver.
How the dogs communicate with us. Ever wondered how dogs are able to tell us when they find what they are looking for? Watch this clip of how two of our dogs respond when detecting thyroid cancer in human urine samples. When you see Frankie lay down after sniffing the sample, you know that it is a positive response for cancer. You'll see the second dog, Sophie, do the same thing when finding the cone that is positive for cancer. Some of our other dogs (not shown) have responses that vary from a sit to a paw.
Prospectively Diagnosing Cancer
We presented our latest research at the Endocrine Society annual meeting in San Diego, California in March 2015. We demonstrated that a German Shepherd mix, Frankie for whom this foundation is named, was able to prospectively diagnose cancer with 90% (30 of 34 urine specimens) accuracy. We are expanding this data set to determine the capability of dogs to serve as a clinical adjunct for the evaluation of thyroid nodules.
We are now in a collaborative partnership with the Canine Performance Sciences (CPS) division of the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine. CPS represents a 25-year research, development, and operational pedigree focused on enhancing the use of dogs for biochemical sensing. CPS expertise ranges from basic laboratory studies, to applied (field) research/testing/evaluation, to innovation in detection dog development, to operational training/outreach. CPS expertise has been repeatedly called upon by numerous US government agencies, including the DOD, DARPA, Homeland Security, TSA, Customs, Energy, Federal Protection Services, and US Capitol Police, to name a few. Through our combined methodology, we will develop a prototype operational system for sample screening of targeted cancers by dogs.
The Frankie Foundation is not affiliated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences or Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine.