A bowel cancer “first” was celebrated in Mosgiel last week.
K9 Medical Detection (K9MD) New Zealand Charitable Trust founder and director Pauline Blomfield, of Saddle Hill, said the K9MD opened its headquarters at the Invermay research campus in Mosgiel last month.
“This is a first for New Zealand.”
The facility included a training room where dogs could learn how to detect the scent of bowel cancer, she said.
She hoped the dogs’ “non-invasive, early detection” would become “another diagnostic tool in the fight against this disease”.
University of Otago department of pathology research fellow Katrin Campbell, of Fairfield, delivered three different bowel cancer cell samples to the headquarters last Friday.
The cells – taken from three different people with bowel cancer – would be used as training aids for dogs learning to detect the scent of bowel cancer, Dr Campbell said.
K9MD senior K9 trainer Courtney Moore, of Ocean View, said the training room at the headquarters was equipped with scent-detection training equipment.
The equipment had several closed compartments, each able to house a separate item.
Bowel cancer cells in saline solution and other items such as pure saline solution, a plastic pottle and a rubber glove would be put in separate compartments.
In time, dogs would learn to detect cancer cells, which were immersed in the urine of someone without cancer.
A dog would be rewarded when it correctly identified which compartment had the cancer cells in it, Ms Moore said.
A reward for detection dog Levi was a game of tug.
Levi had “a lot of drive” and was always keen to get to work.
“He’s intelligent and really quick to pick things up.”
Mrs Blomfield said the Bowel Cancer Foundation Trust approached K9MD and asked it to train its dogs for the early detection of bowel cancer.
“We anticipate this will take three years as we are working towards detection of bowel cancer in urine.”
Dogs could detect stable concentration levels of one-two parts per trillion,
“Given that 23 people in New Zealand die from bowel cancer every week, we hope to be able to use our dogs as another diagnostic tool in the fight against this disease.”
It was “exciting” to be doing the work in Dunedin.
The trust was proud to have its scent detection equipment made in Dunedin by Scott Fabtech.