Author: Travis Pittman

Published: 2:01 AM EDT April 9, 2019

Updated: 2:01 AM EDT April 9, 2019

Dogs may be able to one day tell doctors whether a patient has cancer just by smell, according to a new study announced by the pharmaceutical firm BioScent Dx.

The study was designed to see how accurately a canine can detect lung cancer biomarkers in blood serum using just their sense of smell. Dogs have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than humans, according to a press release announcing the results.

Four beagles were used for the experiment, which involved clicker training.

Three of the dogs were able to correctly identify lung cancer samples 96.7 percent of the time and normal samples 97.5 percent of the time, according to the study. A fourth dog was described as “unmotivated to perform during training.”

The study's authors say this opens the door for a larger scale research project involving cancer-sniffing dogs. That could lead to accurate cancer detection that is less expensive and less invasive than today's methods.

"A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated," said lead researcher Heather Junqueira in a statement.

The company says the next phase has already launched. It's a breast cancer study in which participants donate samples of their breath that will be screened by cancer-sniffing dogs.

The results were being presented this week at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting.