Platinum Priority – Prostate Cancer
Editorial by Anders S. Bjartell on pp. 202–203 of this issue

Olfactory Detection of Prostate Cancer by Dogs Sniffing Urine: A Step Forward in Early Diagnosis

By: Jean-Nicolas Cornua lowast , Géraldine Cancel-Tassinb, Valérie Ondetb, Caroline Girardetc and Olivier Cussenota b

European Urology, Volume 59 Issue 2, February 2011, Pages 197-201

Published online: 01 February 2011

Keywords: Prostate cancer, Volatile organic compounds, Screening, Dogs, Olfactory detection

Abstract Full Text Full Text PDF (480 KB)



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


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.


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%.


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.

Take Home Message

Dogs are able to recognize the odor of prostate cancer by sniffing urine. Detection of specific volatile organic compounds could be an innovative and valuable screening method for early detection of prostate cancer.

Keywords: Prostate cancer, Volatile organic compounds, Screening, Dogs, Olfactory detection.


a Department of Urology, Tenon Hospital, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), University Paris VI, Paris, France

b CeRePP, Tenon Hospital, Paris, France

c Veterinary Department of the Heath Unit of French Army, Ecole Militaire, Paris, France

lowast Corresponding author. Urology Department, Tenon Hospital, 4 rue de la Chine, 75970 Paris Cedex 20, France. Tel. +33 1 56 01 64 95; Fax: +33 1 56 01 73 06.

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