Monday 22 August 2011

Can Dogs Smell Cancer?

A short break in normal service to bring you a film we made in 2006 for the BBC which has never been seen online before. It is prompted by the news last week that German researchers have found that dogs can detect lung cancer from breath samples to a more than 70 per cent accuracy - and, moreover, were able to distinguish cancer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Some reports stated that it is the first time it has been shown that dogs can detect lung cancer from breath exhalate - but as you'll see in the film, it isn't...

Can Dogs Smell Cancer? documents the whole history of dogs' ability to sniff out disease and we think it is a remarkable story.

It is a film I waited 20 years to make, after I covered the first anecdotal report of a dog detecting cancer as a print journalist (the story of Dalmatian Trudi who sniffed out a melanoma). I waited because I wanted the film to go beyond the anecdotal and it took all that time for anyone to conduct any scientific trials exploring the phenomenon in a controlled way.

There are many amazing sequences in this film... the incredible dogs at Florida State University who could detect chemicals at dilution of 1-2 parts per trillion... the dashed hopes of the team from Cambridge University when Bliss fails on the ultimate test... And then there is yellow labrador Kobi towards the end of the film. Hard to watch without a shiver running up your spine...

The film was shot, beautifully I hope you'll agree, by the unsung hero of Passionate Productions,  Jon Lane - my partner in work and love.


Can Dogs Smell Cancer? from Jemima Harrison on Vimeo.


  1. Dogs are great, we as humans can't even begin to understand some of the things they are capable of. Thanks for sharing this very heart warming video :)

    So many dogs of so many different breeds (and mixed breeds) are capable of so much more than what we as humans realize.

  2. Great documentary!In every way ,Thanks


  3. Truly fascinating and very humbling! I think it's very remiss of Cancer Research UK to dismiss this research as "novelty". I sincerely hope that the research programme found the funding it required to carry on. Do you have an update on what is happening in this area of research now?

    Thank you for sharing.... Congratulations to you and Jon for a truly mesmerising documentary.