An Israeli biotech startup based in Tel Aviv has created a breath test that uses the canine olfactory sense to identify the presence of cancer.
Spotitearly is currently conducting a large clinical trial led by the Sourasky (Ichilov) Medical Center in Tel Aviv and Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem in which a single breath test is used to screen for breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers.
The test, which is conducted by wearing a designated mask and breathing into it for five minutes, can be carried out from the patient’s residence, at a screening institute, or at a clinic.
After the five minutes, the mask is placed in a hermetically sealed package and sent back to the company’s lab, where the samples are inserted into sniffing ports.
Trained dogs then move through the sniffing ports, with several dogs scanning each sample. When a dog identifies an odor that identifies a positive cancer sample, they respond in a specific way.
Cancer Has an Odor
The test was developed after scientists discovered that cancer does, in fact, have an odor.
In their early stages, cancerous tumors secrete, first into the blood and then into the respiratory system, molecules carrying volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the company explains.
Each type of cancer has a unique odor, and most also have a common denominator. Dogs can detect these odors in a fraction of a second.
Several studies have proven their sensitivity to the scents is greater than those of any medical tests or devices currently in use.
Dogs’ Play in Action
The dogs are trained by the company to scan the samples as a form of play.
The SpotitEarly technology joins Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence with the dogs’ olfactory abilities to carry out analysis of the samples.
“During the training phase, our test showed higher sensitivity and better specificity in detecting early stages of cancer compared to any existing test on the market today,” the company said in a statement on its website.
Last June, the company completed a $6.2 million seed funding round led by Hanaco Ventures and which included investors such as Jeff Schwartz, Michael Eisenberg and Avishai Avrahami.
SpotitEarly CEO Ariel Ben Dayan is an IDF reservist with the rank of Colonel and a former commander of Israel’s prominent Oketz canine unit.