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New Biomarker Test Improves Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

Most Women Undergoing Surgery for Suspected Cancer Do Not Have It

A novel blood test developed by Swedish researchers now offers the possibility of more precise diagnostics without the need for surgery. This could lead to a reduction in unnecessary surgery as well as earlier detection and treatment for affected women.

Ovarian cancer has a high mortality rate and is often discovered at a late stage: only three to four patients out of every 10 survive five years after treatment. Thus far, there has been no test specific enough to justify screening; instead, women with unexpected findings of an ovarian cyst or symptoms undergo an ultrasound. If abnormalities are seen, surgery is the sole way to make sure all cancer is detected. This results in many women having surgery without having cancer, which in turn carries increased risks.

Of every five operations that are performed on women, one will detect cancer. Although this is currently the best option when abnormalities are detected by ultrasound and cancer is suspected, there is a clear need for a simple blood test to identify women who do not need surgery, according to the researchers.  

In the study, which was recently published in Communications Biology, the researchers developed a biomarker test based on analysis of 11 proteins. The test is performed on a blood sample and is used when an ultrasound suggests abnormalities, to identify women without cancer. In cases where the physician chooses to operate, the cancer detection rate could increase from one in five to one in three.

The biomarker profile can also detect borderline cases and early stages of the disease. The researchers say that their results are promising enough to consider screening for the early discovery of ovarian cancer.

Source: Uppsala University, June 20, 2019

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