UK researchers improve ovarian cancer detection test

Measuring changes in the level of a protein in the blood detects more cases of ovarian cancer than a single measurement on its own, according to the research team behind a large screening trial.

The new method, detailed in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, appears to be able to detect twice as many women with the disease than existing techniques, and could ultimately lead to routine ovarian screening.

But experts cautioned that the overall results of the trial need analysing before they will know for sure whether screening can reduce deaths from ovarian cancer.

Levels of the CA125 protein have long been used to test for ovarian cancer, but converting this knowledge into a reliable screening test has proved elusive.

The team, led by researchers at University College London (UCL), developed a calculation of ovarian cancer risk based on changing levels of the protein in women’s blood.

They used the method on samples taken from women on the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) – a 14-year-long trial of more than 200,000 UK women.

The test correctly identified more than eight out of 10 (86 per cent) women with ovarian cancer.

The conventional test, which relies on a fixed cut-off point for CA125 levels to detect the disease, generally only identifies about four in 10 women, the researchers say.

Reference: Risk Algorithm Using Serial Biomarker Measurements Doubles the Number of Screen-Detected Cancers Compared With a Single-Threshold Rule in the United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening  Journal of Clinical Oncology Published online before print May 11, 2015

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