A smartphone app that could 'sniff out' prostate tumours is currently in the works.

The device is based on a dog's sense of smell, with the animals potentially helping to catch an earlier diagnosis of the most common cancer in men according to scientists, as the pooches could detect the disease in urine. 

Now, a British and US team medical team have harnessed them into a computer learning/artificial intelligence programme.

Lead author Dr Claire Guest, of Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes, said: "We've shown it's possible to replicate the dog's performance as sensors and brains and it is now time to put this technology in every smartphone."

READ MORE: MP gives update on how coronavirus vaccination centres are dealing with the pandemic

The breakthrough offers hope of cheap and simple screening as prostate cancer kills around 11,900 men in the UK each year.

The widely used PSA (prostate-specific antigen) screening test can miss aggressive prostate cancer - or suggest it is potentially deadly when it poses little risk.

But training takes time and availability is limited - making them impractical for large-scale screening.

In experiments, a miniaturised detector system that can be incorporated into a mobile photo was as successful as dogs.

The device incorporates mammalian olfactory receptors stabilised to act as sensors, and the data streams can be handled in real-time by the capabilities of a typical smartphone.

In testing, the same 50 samples of urine from patients diagnosed with prostate cancer and individuals free of the disease, matched the success rate of dogs with results being more than 70 per cent accurate.

The dogs that took part in the programme were Florin, a four-year-old female Labrador and Midas, a seven-year-old female Wire Haired Hungarian Vizsla.

The results from Florin and Midas trail (Source: SWNS)

The results from Florin and Midas' trail (Source: SWNS)

Dr Andreas Mershin, of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), said: "The dogs don't know any chemistry.

“They don't see a list of molecules appear in their head.

READ MORE: MP 'delighted' that TVP is to receive a £1.16m cash injection to tackle 'serious violence'

"When you smell a cup of coffee, you don't see a list of names and concentrations, you feel an integrated sensation.

“That sensation of scent character is what the dogs can mine.

"We knew the sensors are already better than what the dogs can do in terms of the limit of detection.

"But what we haven't shown before is that we can train artificial intelligence to mimic the dogs.

"And now we've shown that we can do this.

"We've shown that what the dog does can be replicated to a certain extent."

The outside of the Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes

In the UK, around 48,500 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually.

Prostate Cancer UK ambassador Bill Turnbull has been campaigning for a screening programme.

The former BBC Breakfast presenter and Wycombe Wanderers fan was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer three years ago.