A combined test using an existing blood screening and a test that looks for cancer biomarkers could detect 83% of early-stage ovarian cancer cases, according to a study in the August 15 edition of the journal Cancer Research. Tests for the protein CA-125 have been successful in monitoring treatment in ovarian cancer patients to gauge whether the cancer has returned, but the test alone is not sensitive enough to detect the first few cancer cells that are forming.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute's Biomarker Discovery Center and colleagues used mass spectroscopy to scan the blood of 195 women with ovarian cancer, 65 of whom were in the earliest stages of the disease. They compared several proteins detected in the blood with protein concentrations in the blood of 400 healthy women and isolated three key proteins found at significantly higher concentrations in ovarian cancer patients than in healthy women. Combining the CA-125 test and tests to detect concentrations of the three proteins allowed researchers to correctly identify 19 of 23--or 83%--cases of early ovarian cancer.
The researchers, calling their technique "promising," recommend additional, larger studies and noted that it could be several years before the cancer screening method is ready for clinical use. They also said it may someday be possible to use the blood tests in combination with ultrasound exams to rule out cancer among high-risk women or those who have symptoms of the disease.