Human ovarian carcinomas detected by specific odor

Integr Cancer Ther. 2008 Jun;7(2):76-80. doi: 10.1177/1534735408319058. Epub 2008 May 27.


The high mortality rate associated with ovarian carcinoma is mainly owing to late diagnosis. It is thus essential to develop inexpensive and simple methods for early diagnosis. Papers on canine scent detection of malignancies such as melanoma and bladder, lung, and breast cancer have recently been published in peer-reviewed journals, indicating a new diagnostic tool for malignancies. However, in these studies the dogs may have responded to odors associated with cancer, such as inflammation or metabolic products, rather than specifically to cancer itself. Therefore, it is important to ascertain whether or not human cancers are characterized by specific odors. We hypothesized that if ovarian carcinoma emits a specific odor, dogs may be trained to detect it. Using our training method, we taught a dog to distinguish different histopathological types and grades of ovarian carcinomas, including borderline tumors, from healthy control samples. Double-blind tests showed 100% sensitivity and 97.5% specificity. Moreover, the odor of ovarian carcinomas seems to differ from those of other gynecological malignances such cervical, endometrial, and vulvar carcinomas. Our study strongly suggests that the most common ovarian carcinomas are characterized by a single specific odor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Dogs
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Odorants
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smell*