Roundworms correctly identify cancer samples 95.8 percent of the time.
An essay in the print version of New Scientist magazine called "Worms sniff out cancer in urine" caught my eye. The online version is called "Sushi parasite inspires worm test for cancer." It begins: "Dogs do it. Mice do it. Even some people can do it. Now roundworms have been added to the list of creatures that can detect cancer."
The short review article in New Scientist is based on a research paper called "A Highly Accurate Inclusive Cancer Screening Test Using Caenorhabditis elegans Scent Detection" that was published in PLOS One by Takaaki Hirotsu and his colleagues. Using what they call a Nematode Scent Detection Test (NSDT), this team of researchers tested 242 samples and discovered that "the sensitivity was 95.8 percent" and "this is markedly higher than that of other existing tumor markers." They also write, "Importantly, this test was able to diagnose various cancer types tested at the early stage (stage zero or one)" and that "C. elegans scent-based analyses might provide a new strategy to detect and study disease-associated scents."
In addition, the worm "showed attraction to the urine samples regardless of cancer type" but couldn't identify the organs that harbored the cancer cells. As an alternative and new way to detect cancer, the authors note that the "NSDT has outstanding characteristics such as high accuracy, low cost, painlessness, convenience and speed, and use of urine without restriction of meals and activities. Notably, the special features of the NSDT are its high cost-performance and low set-up costs."
I think the discovery of this new test should be made widely known and that's why I wrote this short piece. I'm sure many readers of Psychology Today would be interested in knowing about this test and sharing its existence with others. I've already told a number of people about it.