UC Davis School of Medicine


A Publication of UC Davis School of Medicine

Volume 12 • No 3 • Winter 2015

The big picture

Cancer detection dogs-in-training Charlie and Alfie.

Cancer detection dogs-in-training Charlie and Alfie met the news media at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in August. Alfie, a labradoodle, and Charlie, a German shepherd, are living with UC Davis physicians while undergoing rigorous training to identify the scent of cancer in saliva, breath and urine. Dogs can detect odorant concentration levels at 1 to 2 parts per trillion – roughly 10,000 to 100,000 times that of humans – and can recognize skin, bladder, lung, breast and ovarian cancers. UC Davis scientists hope to identify cancer chemicals that only dogs can smell, and then use that understanding to develop technology that detects the disease early, when it’s more easily treated and cured. The pups’ screening work begins early next year with a clinical trial to establish safety and efficacy. Their public introduction sparked national interest among dog-lovers, scientists and others interested in their potential to fight America’s second-leading cause of death.