Homewood woman hopes to train cancer sniffing dogs

Published: Aug. 22, 2016 at 10:35 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2016 at 10:47 PM CDT
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HOMEWOOD, AL (WBRC) - A Homewood woman and her dog could be part of cutting edge research that would allow dogs to detect cancer earlier than science currently allows.

"They can detect the cancer so much earlier than any machine in existence," Laurie Malone said.

Malone started conducting "nose work" with her 10-year-old, long-haired dachsund Penny as a way to deal with the dog's fear.

"She was rescued from a puppy mill and lived in a chicken coop for four years," said Malone.

As a way to boost Penny's confidence and keep her active, Malone triggered the dog's natural abilities of hunting and detection. A couple of d rops of birch added to cotton swabs, then hidden around Malone's house prompt Penny to sniff them out. When she successfully discovers the swabs, she receives a treat.

Malone, a researcher, became interested in efforts to create accepted medical standards allowing trained cancer sniffing dogs to identify cancer cells in humans in a laboratory setting.

"They can identify everything from lung to breast to ovarian, prostate cancer, as well," Malone said.

While research has been ongoing for nearly 30 years, certification is only now developing for people to train dogs in the skills that could create medically accepted cancer sniffing dogs.

The InSitu Foundation in Chico, California will host 12 people, including Malone, in October to certify the first trainers in the nation.

Malone said dogs can identify specific cancer odors through human saliva, breath and urine samples.

Through protocols under development from InSitu Foundation, human samples including cancer-containing samples would be set up in vials in a controlled laboratory. Trained dogs would sniff the vials to identify the cancerous samples.

"If the dog can identify the cancerous odors sooner, then the prognosis will hopefully be better for those individuals," Malone said.

While Malone hopes to try Penny as her first cancer sniffing dog, she expects to recruit other dogs through her Sprout and Penny Canine Foundation.

She hopes the foundation can create partnerships and gr ants through medical facilities in Alabama.

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