Superstar K9MD Weta features in the media

Superstar K9MD Weta features in the media

16th March 2022

The smell of success is in the air.

Weta, a German shepherd trained at the K9 Medical Detection unit in Mosgiel, has taken the organisation another step forward in its ongoing search for a non-invasive test for bowel cancer.

She has successfully completed the proof-of-concept stage in detecting bowel cancer in saline solution, down to as low as 5% concentration, and now K9MD is ready for the next step of using patient urine samples in its training.

K9MD chief executive Pauline Blomfield said the validation consisted of 300 samples and was completed over five consecutive days, under strict guidelines and conditions.

An independent observer was present during the entire testing to verify the process and ensure blind testing conditions were maintained throughout.

"Using various concentration ratios from 100% down to 5% for the validation, Weta successfully detected positive bowel cancer samples 100% of the time and ignored samples that did not contain cancer 100% of the time.

"Since validation, Weta is now detecting positive bowel cancer samples as low as 0.1%."

Weta is the second dog trained by K9MD specifically for bowel cancer detection.

K9MD dog Levi completed an equally successful validation in 2021.

Mrs Blomfield said bowel cancer was one of the most diagnosed cancers in New Zealand, and more than 3000 people were diagnosed with it each year.


"Every day in New Zealand, three people will die from bowel cancer, and 90% of bowel cancers can be prevented if found early enough."

University of Otago surgical oncologist Associate Prof Konrad Richter was supportive of K9MD’s work.

He said our underfunded healthcare system was struggling to provide colonoscopies for both symptomatic and non-symptomatic patients in a timely and comprehensive manner.

"Therefore, it is imperative to increase the capacity for colonoscopies and utilise and develop other tools to detect bowel cancer as early as possible before it metastasises, so a cure is possible."

Mrs Blomfield said the dogs would be a "value-added tool" to help protect New Zealander’s health, enable earlier instigation of treatment and potentially lead to improved patient outcomes.

"K9MD aims to create a simple diagnostic urine test for the early detection of bowel cancer.

"The use of highly trained medical detection canines will help decrease the need for any extra invasive tests.

"With Weta and Levi’s solid odour imprinting of the specific volatile organic compounds released from bowel cancer, K9MD is now preparing to continue the second stage of this research using patient urine samples."

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