New blood test may speed up ovarian cancer detection

A cancer diagnosis is often a race against time. The faster a medical team can detect a developing cancer, the better its chances to find a successful treatment.
This is especially true when it comes to ovarian cancer.
If this cancer is detected early, doctors have tools and treatments at their disposal to make sure a patient lives a long, happy, healthy life. Unfortunately, far too many ovarian cancers go undetected until it’s too late.
A potentially exciting new blood test could help speed up the detection process.

From Time’s Healthland blog

Researchers are excited about the latest results, published online in the journal Cancer, from a blood test that could detect the first signs of ovarian cancer. For 11 years, scientists from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston studied just over 4,000 post-menopausal women who were screened for changes in a blood protein called CA125, which serves a biomarker for tumors. While this protein has been used before to predict ovarian cancer, the results haven’t been reliable, since researchers frequently relied on just one test result. In the current study, the scientists repeated the test and compared the readings; the changing levels of CA125 told a more consistent story about the women’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
During this 11-year study, the tests were 40 percent accurate in predicting the presence of ovarian cancer, and in identifying cancer early, to go along with a 99.9-percent specificity result (next to no false positives).
The results are awfully exciting, but the test isn’t quite ready for public use yet. More tests need to be conducted in order to validate these results, but these initial tests have drawn a great deal of attention throughout the ovarian cancer treatment community.
« I was more excited reading this study than I have been in a really long time,” Debbie Saslow, director of breast and gynecologic cancers for the American Cancer Society said to HealthDay. “Not only was [the screening] finding cancers in both of those studies, but it was finding them early. That’s what we want to do.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 22,000 women will be diagnosed with a new case of ovarian cancer this year, with more than 14,000 dying from the disease. If this CA125 test and others like it can help give doctors advanced notice on these developing tumors, lives can be saved.

Samantha Kendrick, PhD, awarded Lymphoma Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
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