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Cancer Health Center

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Pap Test to Detect Ovarian, Endometrial Cancers?

Examining Pap Test Fluid continued...

Cancer cells from either the ovaries or endometrium could also be present in the fluid, the researchers say.

In the new study, the researchers determined the most common genetic mutations found in ovarian and endometrial cancers.

"We ended up with 12 genes," Wang says. The test they developed, called the PapGene test, looks for mutations on those 12 genes.

They searched for the mutations in 24 endometrial cancer tissue samples and 22 ovarian cancer tissue samples.

Mutations were found in all 46 samples.

They looked at the Pap test to see if the same mutations were found as they found in the tissue samples.

For the endometrial samples and Pap tests, 100% matched, Wang says.

For the ovarian samples and Pap tests, they found 41% matched.

The researchers then looked at 14 Pap tests from women known to be cancer-free. "We found no cancer-specific mutations in the fluid," Wang says.

The cost of the test, Wang says, could be less than $100.

The research was funded by Swim Across America (a fund-raising organization for cancer research), the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and numerous other sources.

Several researchers on the study are co-founders of Inostics and Personal Genome Diagnostics, companies involved in DNA blood tests and genetic sequencing.

Several researchers serve on the companies' scientific advisory boards and own stock. The companies have licensed patent applications related to the tests from Johns Hopkins.

Perspective on Test for Ovarian, Endometrial Cancers

"Obviously it's at the early stages," says Michael H. Melner, PhD, scientific program director of molecular genetics and biochemistry in cancer for the American Cancer Society. He reviewed the findings for WebMD.

However, he says, the test ''shows a lot of potential."

In theory, Melner says, looking at genetic mutations known to be linked with certain cancers would be more accurate than looking at some other biological indicators.

Looking at such biomarkers to detect cancer is not foolproof. "We now know that certain of these biomarkers get released during inflammatory diseases that are not cancer," he says.

For instance, CA-125 can be found in high levels in cancer-free women with pelvic inflammatory disease.

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