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Experimental Blood Test for Ovarian Cancer

By Kate Ruder

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Gene Tests
Ovarian Cancer

An experimental blood test has shown promise for detecting ovarian cancer. Scientists have identified three proteins in blood that can be used to help diagnose the disease during its early stages.

The test is not currently available at the doctor’s office or hospital, and further research is needed before a test might become commercially available. Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose, and, as with most cancers, early detection and treatment are believed to be important.

“The test has early detection capabilities, but not for the general population,” says Daniel Chan of Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the research. Chan thinks the test may be useful for women with a family history of ovarian cancer.

Combining the test with imaging techniques for detecting tumors, such as ultrasound, could improve the accuracy of early diagnosis, he adds.

Chan and his colleagues identified the three proteins by screening 195 samples of blood from patients with ovarian cancer, healthy people, and patients with benign ovarian tumors. The samples came from four medical clinics in New York, North Carolina, the Netherlands, and Australia.

By detecting the three proteins in a blood test, they were able to diagnose 83 percent of patients with ovarian cancer and 94 percent of patients who were healthy. The test was not as accurate at diagnosing women with benign ovarian tumors.

The proteins appear to be specific to ovarian cancer. In further research, the scientists found no difference in the levels of these proteins in patients with breast, colon, and prostrate cancer as compared to healthy people.

The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and Ciphergen Biosystems of Fremont, California, which has licensed the test.

Zhang, Z et al. Three biomarkers identified from serum proteomic analysis for the detection of early stage ovarian cancer. Published online in Cancer Research August 15, 2004.

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