December 11, 2013 10:24 ET

Chicago Awareness Organization First Not-for-Profit to Sponsor Dog Training to Detect Ovarian Cancer Odorants

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Dec 11, 2013) - The Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization (OCSA) continues to unleash innovative ways to educate women and their families about the silent symptoms of ovarian cancer and the importance of early detection. Embracing the human animal bond, and opening new communication channels through veterinarians with OCSA's Veterinary Outreach Program (VOP) was a first in the ovarian cancer awareness arena. Today, the nonprofit group adds another unique awareness initiative as they announce support of Ohlin, a Chocolate Labrador Retriever being trained to identify odorants associated with ovarian cancer cells.

A human has about five million scent receptors, while a dog can have from 125 million to 300 million scent receptors depending upon the breed. Ohlin's sensors are being put to good use in the research being led by Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the Monell Chemical Senses Center. 

Named for the original Ohlin who along with his handler, AJ Frank, worked as a search and recovery team at the site of the 9/11 attacks, the 15-month-old dog is being trained to identify the tissue odorants associated with ovarian cancer. Under the leadership of Dr. Cynthia M. Otto at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, researchers are investigating using canine olfaction, along with chemical and nanotechnology analysis, to detect early stage ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer has silent symptoms that can easily be mistaken for common ailments -- constipation, weight gain, bloating, or more frequent urination. Any advance that can accurately detect ovarian cancer in its early stage can have a great impact on overall survival. Currently, physicians rely on their senses of sight, sound and touch when making a diagnosis for ovarian cancer. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) or odorants are altered in the earliest stages of ovarian cancer, even before the cancer can be detected by current methods.

"These odorants remain a relatively untapped source for cancer detection information," says Dr. Otto. "By utilizing the acute sense of smell in detection dogs in conjunction with chemical and nanotechnology methods, we hope to develop a new system of screening for ovarian cancer using analysis of odorants to facilitate early detection and help decrease future cancer deaths," she adds.

Within two years, Dr. Otto hopes the dogs can be trained to narrow down a specific odor so scientists can design an inexpensive and less-invasive blood test to catch ovarian cancer while it's still treatable.

"We're strategically incorporating program initiatives which we believe will help raise awareness about the disease that claims more than 14,000 women's lives each year," said Vallie Szymanski, executive director of OCSA. "People love pets and we hope they'll join us by donating to assist in this sponsorship of Ohlin who gives people an engaging and tangible reason to learn more about this disease's silent and often-missed symptoms," she adds.

An $80,000 grant from Kaleidoscope of Hope Ovarian Cancer Foundation has helped fund the study which is actually three parallel studies: the biological one with dogs; an organic chemistry effort to create an artificial nose; and nanotechnology to develop a computerized screening instrument. Please donate today to support this important tie to our ovarian cancer awareness initiatives!

Each year, over 20,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and approximately 14,000 women die from the disease because symptoms are missed or ignored. There is an urgent need to share the silent symptoms so early detection and treatment are achieved, and lives are saved. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, over 80 percent of veterinarians graduating today are female. This increases the possibility of a personal connection to the disease and a viable tie to the purpose of the VOP and Ohlin's care and training. 

Donate today and learn more information about OCSA and this new, forward-thinking awareness program by visiting

About the Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization (OCSA)
OCSA is a Section 501 (c) (3) charitable organization founded in 2010 to educate women and their families about the silent symptoms of ovarian cancer and the need for early detection and treatment. Donations to OCSA are deductible as a charitable gift. For questions concerning tax deductibility, please consult a tax advisor. Follow the accomplishments and find key information about this cause on Facebook at OCSAChicago, on Twitter @ocsachicagoorg, or visit

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