The instigator of this work was Dr John Church. John’s interest in sniffer dogs being used to detect cancer was fired by a letter to The Lancet in April 1989 (Williams H, Pembroke A. Sniffer dogs in the melanoma clinic? Lancet. April 1, 1989;1:734), which gave a anecdotal description of a dog that had apparently recognised an early cancer on the skin of its owner. The lesion was excised, was found to be an early malignant melanoma, and was treated appropriately with success.
Following this first publication, John met a further patient with a similar story, and he published this, again in The Lancet together with a Dr H Williams. (Church J, Williams H. Another sniffer dog for the clinic? Lancet Sept. 15, 2001;358:930).
In 2003 John Church brought together a team of doctors, dog trainers and scientists, in 2004 a preliminary proof of principle study was completed. This was published in the British Medical Journal (Willis CM, Church SM, Guest CM, Cook WA, McCarthy N, Bransbury A, Church MRT, Church JCT. Olfactory detection of human bladder cancer by dogs: proof of principle study. BMJ 2004 329: 712.) The study provided the first proof that dogs could identify a unique odour or ‘odour signature’ that was associated with cancer. This was the first clinically robust trial to be completed and published in the world.
It was obvious that the project needed some new initiative in order to succeed. It had become apparent over an extended period of time that to progress in this difficult field a really intense concentrated effort was required. It was at this point that it was decided the best way forward was to form a new charity, able to raise funds, have its own premises and employ its own staff.
Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs was formed in October 2007 and obtained charitable status in June 2008.