Introducing Tsunami, a real-life cancer detective and star of Animal Planet's show Life at Vet U, which follows six fourth-year students at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine. Tsunami, a three-year-old German Shepherd, works some three to four days a week at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center while her pet parent, Clint Kuban, embarks upon his fourth-year studies at the University.
Is Tsunami putting her agility, obedience, or super-snuggly cuddles into action? Well, no; she happens to have one of the best noses around, and has been working on the center's ovarian cancer detection research project since its launch in 2013. The research project on which Tsunami has been working is aiming to discover whether odors that emanate from ovarian tissue can be used for reliable early cancer detection.
Can Tsunami's nose really sniff out cancer? Dogs are renowned for being super-sensitive when it comes to their pet parent's health and wellbeing, and it's thought that this sixth sense could extend to the detection of cancer. Using a scent wheel, which introduces a myriad of new smells, researchers can isolate exactly what it is that Tsunami is smelling – whether that's a blood plasma sample, benign growths, or a distractor scent. She is able to accurately detect malignancies 90% of the time. We have also reported on another cancer-detecting German Shepherd named Frankie.
Clint explained her role to the New York Post: "There is no machine that is as powerful and as specific as what our dogs can do. Canines smell up to 1,000 times more accurately than humans, and they have up to 300 million olfactory receptors as opposed to [our] 6 million. By narrowing it down and analyzing the volatile compounds that are being emitted by the samples, we can eventually reach the specific [odor] markers that we can screen for."
Alongside a three-year-old Springer Spaniel, and a five-year-old Labrador Retriever, Tsunami is working towards the early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. Detecting such a condition early on can vastly improve survival rates.
Doctors are now satisfied that Tsunami and her canine companions can successfully detect ovarian cancer, and must now discover whether they're equally efficient at detecting the disease during its earliest stages. Keep up the good work, Tsunami!
Have you spotted Tsunami on Animal Planet yet?