Cookies

Like most websites The Pathologist uses cookies. In order to deliver a personalized, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. Learn more.
Diagnostics Oncology, Software and hardware, Technology and innovation

Sniffing Out Prostate Cancer with Artificial Neural Networks

Though prostate cancer is the second-highest cause of cancer death in men, early biomarker detection methods – specifically, the prostate-specific antigen screening test – lack sensitivity and specificity. We need to reduce false positives and false negatives – but how? The answer may lie in our four-legged friends. Trained canines have been shown to reliably detect and diagnose cancer by smell. Granted, dogs in the lab would be a logistical nightmare and not feasible for mass testing – but that’s where researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) come in.

Using urine samples from patients with or without prostate cancer (confirmed by biopsy), they tested whether the cancer could be detected by trained sniffer dogs, molecular volatile organic compound (VOC) analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS), or microbiota profiling (1). Canine olfaction reliably distinguished between prostate cancer samples and biopsy-negative controls, whereas VOC and microbiota detected qualitative differences between the groups.

We can train an artificial intelligence to mimic the dogs.

From this, the team trained an artificial neural network to mimic canine olfactory diagnosis – distinguishing between biopsy-positive and biopsy-negative samples based on the GC-MS data both alone and combined with canine olfaction data. “We knew that the sensors are already better than what the dogs can do in terms of the limit of detection, but what we haven’t shown before is that we can train an artificial intelligence to mimic the dogs,” said Andreas Mershin, a research scientist at MIT and author on the study (2). “And now we’ve shown that we can do this – we’ve shown that what the dog does can be replicated to a certain extent.”

This multiparametric approach lays the groundwork for the development of machine-based diagnostic tools that mimic canine olfaction – and, given the dogs’ keen sense of smell, it has the potential to improve diagnostic efficacy in a field where unreliable results run rampant.

 

Want to learn more about medical detection dogs? Click here to read about our day with the dogs and their important work sniffing out cancer!

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Pathologist and its sponsors.

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. C Guest et al., PLoS One, 16, e0245530 (2021). PMID: 33596212.
  2. MIT News (2021). Available at: http://bit.ly/307Yl0K.
About the Author
Olivia Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

Related Application Notes
Superior Determination of HPV using RNAscope™ In Situ Hybridization

| Contributed by Bio-Techne

Biomarker Optimization on LabSat® Research

| Contributed by Lunaphore Technologies

Diagnostics Genetics and epigenetics
A single NGS workflow for comprehensive genomic profiling

| Contributed by QIAGEN

Related Product Profile
Diagnostics Genetics and epigenetics
QIAseq® Pan Cancer Multimodal cuts user interventions by 50%

| Contributed by QIAGEN

Most Popular
Register to The Pathologist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Pathologist magazine

Register