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Characteristic odour in the blood reveals ovarian carcinoma

György Horvath12*, Håkan Andersson and Gunnar Paulsson

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Skövde City Hospital, Skövde, Sweden

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:643  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-643

Published: 24 November 2010



Ovarian carcinoma represents about 4% of all cancers diagnosed in women worldwide. Mortality rate is high, over 50%, mainly due to late diagnosis. Currently there are no acceptable screening techniques available, although ovarian cancer belongs to the group of malignancies for which mortality could be dramatically reduced by early diagnosis.

In a recently published study, we clearly demonstrated that human ovarian carcinoma tissues can be characterized by a specific odour, detectable by a trained dog. Another recent study confirmed these results using an electronic nose.


In the present work, we examined whether the cancer-specific odour can also be found in the blood. Two specially trained dogs were used. Both ovarian cancer tissues and blood from patients with ovarian carcinoma were tested.


The tissue tests showed sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 95%, while the blood tests showed sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 98%.


The present study strongly suggests that the characteristic odour emitted by ovarian cancer samples is also present in blood (plasma) taken from patients with the disease. This finding opens possibilities for future screening of healthy populations for early diagnosis of ovarian carcinoma. A future challenge is to develop a sensitive electronic nose for screening of ovarian carcinoma by testing the blood/plasma to detect the disease at a stage early enough for treatment to be effective.