Olfactory detection of prostate cancer by dogs sniffing urine: a step forward in early diagnosis

Eur Urol. 2011 Feb;59(2):197-201. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2010.10.006. Epub 2010 Oct 15.


Background: Volatiles organic compounds (VOCs) in urine have been proposed as cancer biomarkers.

Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of prostate cancer (PCa) detection by trained dogs on human urine samples.

Design, setting, and participants: A Belgian Malinois shepherd was trained by the clicker training method (operant conditioning) to scent and recognize urine of people having PCa. All urine samples were frozen for preservation and heated to the same temperature for all tests. After a learning phase and a training period of 24 mo, the dog's ability to discriminate PCa and control urine was tested in a double-blind procedure. Urine was obtained from 66 patients referred to a urologist for elevated prostate-specific antigen or abnormal digital rectal examination. All patients underwent prostate biopsy and two groups were considered: 33 patients with cancer and 33 controls presenting negative biopsies.

Measurements: During each "run," the dog was asked to signal a cancer urine among six samples containing only one cancer urine and five randomly selected controls. Sensitivity and specificity of the test were assessed.

Results and limitations: The dog completed all the runs and correctly designated the cancer samples in 30 of 33 cases. Of the three cases wrongly classified as cancer, one patient was rebiopsied and a PCa was diagnosed. The sensitivity and specificity were both 91%.

Conclusions: This study shows that dogs can be trained to detect PCa by smelling urine with a significant success rate. It suggests that PCa gives an odor signature to urine. Identification of the VOCs involved could lead to a potentially useful screening tool for PCa.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / urine
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Dogs*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / urine*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smell*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / urine


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Volatile Organic Compounds