Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Women's Best Friend Helping To Find An Ovarian Cancer Screening Test

Yesterday, I was part of a group that visited the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia. The group included the president and vice-president of the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation (KOH), Dr. George Preti from Monell Chemical Senses Center and Jenifer Trachtman, Director of Development at Monell Chemical Senses Center.

This past April KOH awarded a grant to Dr Preti for his research titled " A Novel Aproach to Ovarian Cancer: Screening Using an Interdisciplinary Investigation of Its Volatile Signature".  The research will determine the volatile chemical signature (odors)  given off by the blood of ovarian cancer patients in the hopes of developing an effective early screening test. Currently, Dr Preti is collecting the odors using a techique called solid-phase microextraction. The odors are then injected into a gas chromatograph which will separate the odors into individual compounds and then they compounds are sent to a mass spectometer which gives the structure of the compound. He is running this test on blood from ovarian cancer patients, blood from control patients and blood from patients with benign ovarian conditions. He will be looking at the different compounds found and levels of the compounds among the samples.

Dr. Preti is collaborating with Dr Cindy Otto, Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center whose aim is to determine the sensitivity of dogs in detecting ovarian cancer tissue and blood and distinguishing disease samples from normal samples. Dr. Otto, Anne Marie DeAngelo and their team are training dogs to sniff containers and pick the one that holds the ovarian cancer tumor tissue.  The current tissue samples predominately from women with serous papillary epithelial ovarian cancer.

There are currently three dogs involved in the study.  We saw two of the three dogs in training. The dogs are brought into a special room set aside for this research. They sniff each container and react to the correct sample by sitting and barking when they find the correct one. The first dog we saw was named Mc Baine.
McBaine sat down next to the tumor sample container . A series of containers - one with the  tumor sample in it - were  placed on the aluminum shelf on the walk. 
The second dog was named Ohlin. The third dog is a German Shepherd named Tsunami.
This is Ohlin as he begins his session.

The collaborative research will also test if the volatile molecules given off by the plasma is what is being identified by the dogs.

The final goal of the research is to develop an electronic sensor as an "e-nose" to detect ovarian cancer. Dr Preti is working with Dr Johnson, Dept of Physics and Astronomy University of Pennsylvania, who will use nanotechnology to develop a sensor to detect the compounds he and the dogs found.

You can learn more about Dr Preti's olfactory research in the New York Times Magazine article "What Does Cancer Smell Like?" .

After watching a series of training sessions for the ovarian cancer research study we were invited to watch Pat Kaynaroglu and her team as they trained the search and rescue dogs. We went outside behind the Center where two fenced in areas were located. The first area was an agility area for training. This area allows the dogs to practice climbing on top of, under and through different obstacles.

The second fenced in area is full of building debris from cement ruble to pallets to plastic piping. This training requires one of the staff members to hide, completely covered under or in different parts of the ruble. The dogs are sent to search and use their sense of smell to find the hidden "victim". The dogs  will then bark and scratch where the person is located.
This yellow Lab was barking to let his handler know that he found someone.

Thank you Dr Otto, Ann Marie, Pat and the staff of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center for allowing me to visit. I appreciate the time you took to answer my many questions about how you train the dogs. I picked up a few good pointers that will help me as I continue to train my dog for agility competition. 

Every Day is a Blessing! 

1 comment:

Jean said...

Thanks for visiting the center I am the foster family for Ohlin and have learned so much through this experience.there are amazing things happening everyday with these little super hero dogs (!) and dedicated staff and volunteers.