Dogs Helping to Develop a Blood Test for Ovarian Cancer


After first speaking with newsman Dave Schwaney about an interesting Lyft ride and driver, listen HERE to Vallie Szamanski, executive director and a co-founder of Ovarian Symptom Awareness (OCSA) tells an amazing story on my WGN Radio show about how dogs are helping to develop an early detection blood test for ovarian cancer.

Vallie Szamanski

Vallie first explains how the non-profit began, and includes one story of a dog detecting cancer – but this one happened too late in the game. Though, it sparked an idea.

Today, OCSA is supporting work of Penn Vet Working Dog Center and Dr. Cynthia Otto. Here’s the 101 on what’s she’s up to. Dogs can identify ovarian cancer. When they do this, they’re identifying specific chemicals. Otto knows if those chemicals are specifically identified (by chemists and physicists), a blood test to detect ovarian cancer early is very possible. Read more about Dr. Otto’s work.

You can help support Dr. Otto and OCSA at its 5th annual Golf Tournament and Dinner on Monday, July 31, presented by Billco Corporation at Boulder Ridge Country Club, Lake in the Hills. The benefit led by event co-chairs, Carolyn Ascher, owner of ME Project Management and Dr. Kurt Klepitsch, owner of Gateway Veterinary Clinic. Funds raised will support the nonprofit’s ongoing awareness campaign surrounding the silent symptoms of the ovarian cancer as well as its Veterinary Outreach Program (VOP) initiatives including support of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center’s current program harnessing canines’ olfactory prowess to ‘sniff out’ ovarian cancer. This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of long time OCSA supporter, Joan M. Schaefer, who lost her battle with the disease in 2016. Tickets are still available for the golf out and/or casual dinner. 

I attend the dinner to introduce Dr. Otto, and to talk about my friend Darlene Arden, a celebrated pet book author and certified animal behavior consultant, who succumbed to ovarian cancer earlier this year. Before she passed away she helped to create the Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Darlene Arden Veterinary Outreach Program Fund. 

Darlene was diagnosed in 2010, and all along her cat Aimee was at her side. Darlene once said, “Aimee is my angel. She knows what I seem to need, to relax by petting her, she cuddles with me. If it’s a good laugh that I need, Aimee can make me laugh. “

In this WGN Plus podcastlisten to Vallie Szymanski and Dr. Kurt Kleptisch discuss how their support of cancer sniffing dogs at the University of Pennsylvania College Veterinary Medicine is on the verge of making it possible to develop an easy blood test to find cancers.

Late last year, Arden told me, “A dog’s nose is God’s greatest miracle. It’s no coincidence that dog is God spelled backwards. Eventually, researchers on the human side may find a drug or treatment for ovarian cancer. Too many women can’t wait for that happen slow as molasses. Veterinary funded studies get things done!”

The golf outing is at Boulder Ridge Country Club | 350 Boulder Drive, Lake in the Hills, IL 60156

Registration: 10 a.m. | Lunch: 11 a.m. | Shot Gun Start: 12 noon | Dinner & Silent Auction: 4:30 p.m.

Price: Foursome including golf, lunch and dinner, $750; Single golfer with lunch and dinner, $200; Dinner-only tickets are $50.

Purchase tickets, visit:

Also, I mention the Chicago Way Podcast that I appeared on with Jenny Tiner of Windy Kitty Cat Cafe and Lounge. The Chicago Way has never gone this way, with John Kass, America’s number one skeptic and number one cat lover (well maybe not).