Training dogs to detect malignant ovarian cancer – and using them to help produce an early-detection system

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fagin Hall Auditorium (418 Curie Boulevard)

12:00-1:30 PM

Lunch Provided



There is currently no early diagnosis system for ovarian cancer resulting in later diagnoses and poorer prognoses of the disease. T ]he Penn Vet Working Dog Center is training dogs to alert on malignant ovarian cancer when presented with plasma samples of human patients. The project aims to answer two questions. First, can we train dogs on cancer cell lines to alert on cancer plasma? This would reduce the need for increasing numbers of plasma samples, one hurdle to get over when training cancer detection dogs. Second, can we use dogs to inform us in our end-goal to make an early-detection system for ovarian cancer? Together with collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania and the Monell Center, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center is hoping to make an 'electronic nose' early detection system that can be used to diagnose ovarian cancer at earlier stages, when the disease has a significantly higher survival rate. Come learn about this exciting, innovative, and life-saving project from Jennifer Essler, PhD from t he Penn Vet Working Dog Center and George Preti, PhD from the Monell Center.

Speaker Bios: 

Jennifer Essler, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Her interests center around how we can quantify the training of working dogs, and how we can use this to improve the training process, resulting in better working dogs. At the Working Dog Center, she runs the research side of the center, including work on scent detection and development. Her major research project presently involves training dogs to detect malignant ovarian cancer, working in collaboration with other researchers to hopefully result in an early detection screening for ovarian cancer.

Before beginning at the Working Dog Center, she received her B.A. in Psychology from Georgia State University and her M.Sc. in Animal Behavior from Bucknell University. Her earlier work was on cognition and social behavior in non-human primates, focusing on capuchin monkeys. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, where she studied the effects of domestication on cooperation in pack-living dogs and wolves. Her research has been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals, including Current Biology and Animal Cognition.


George Preti, PhD received his B.S. in Chemistry from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1966 and his PhD in Organic Chemistry in 1971 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a specialty in Organic Mass Spectrometry in the laboratory of Professor Klaus Biemann. That same year he joined the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. The Center, a non-profit research institute, is renowned throughout the world as a leader in multidisciplinary, basic research in olfaction and gustation. Dr. Preti is a Member of Monell and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. For more than four decades, his research has focused upon the nature, origin and functional significance of human odors. His current studies center upon human odors which are diagnostic of disease, examining the effect of genetics and ethnicity on body odor, a bioassay-guided approach to the identification of human pheromones, malodor identification and suppression.