Otago Daily Times Feature
K9MD chief executive officer Pauline Blomfield is ecstatic after Levi, the German shepherd, successfully completed the proof-of-concept stage of training by detecting bowel cancer in saline with 98.4% accuracy. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Cancer detection dog Levi has a nose which knows.
The K9 Medical Detection New Zealand (K9MD) dog can tell if bowel cancer is present in saline samples, and in a world first, the Dunedin-trained German shepherd has successfully completed the proof-of-concept stage of training by detecting bowel cancer in saline as low as 6.0% ratio.
The proof-of-concept test had never been successfully completed before, and the Bowel Cancer Foundation Trust and K9MD believed this was a major step towards detecting bowel cancer using urine samples.
K9MD chief executive officer Pauline Blomfield was ecstatic and believed it would help reduce the over-crowded wait lists for diagnostic tests here in New Zealand.
“K9MD’s objective to create a simple diagnostic urine test for early bowel cancer detection, is one step closer,” she said.
Levi carried out the proof of concept validation in June 2021.
He had to sniff 400 samples over five consecutive days, under strict guidelines and conditions.
An independent observer verified the whole process and ensured the trainer did not know whether the samples were positive or negative.
The results were recorded into a specific software programme and analysed by K9MD’s biostatistician.
A video recording of the validation was sent to the United States for peer review by an international expert on canine scent detection.
Levi achieved results using various concentration ratios from 100% down to 6% for the validation.
He successfully detected positive bowel cancer samples 98.4% of the time and ignored samples that did not contain cancer 100% of the time.
Mrs Blomfield said Levi was now detecting positive bowel cancer samples as low as 1.0%.
Bowel Cancer Foundation Trust chief executive officer and founder Georgina Mason said the result was “incredible”.
“New Zealand’s bowel screening wait lists are blowing out because they contain patients with bowel cancer, mixed in with those that have inflammatory and other bowel conditions.
“Our test will find those specific bowel cancer patients earlier and ultimately save lives.”
Mrs Blomfield said Levi’s training would now move to stage two, diagnostic test accuracy in real world conditions using patient urine samples.