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Accurate Test Finds Ovarian Cancer


WebMD Health News

Feb. 8, 2002 -- Researchers have discovered a blood test that can detect ovarian cancer with close to 100% accuracy. This potential breakthrough could identify women early in the disease and save thousands of lives.

Every year, ovarian cancer affects about 23,000 women and kills 14,000, according to the American Cancer Society. But in 80% of women, the cancer isn't found until it has progressed to an advanced stage. At this point, only 35% of women are expected to be alive five years after being diagnosed.

But if the cancer can be found at an early stage, the number of women that survive five or more years jumps to 90%. And most women at this stage can be cured with just surgery alone -- avoiding the difficult rounds of chemotherapy.

Therefore, if researchers can find a way to identify women at an early stage, more women could survive this disease. It appears that they have done just that.

Lead researcher Emanuel F. Petricoin III and colleagues first looked at 50 women with ovarian cancer and 50 women without it. Using advanced technology, they identified a pattern of proteins in the blood that could accurately distinguish between those with ovarian cancer and those without.

Then they looked at 116 samples of blood -- 50 from women with ovarian cancer and 66 from women without cancer. The blood test identified every woman with ovarian cancer with 100% accuracy. The blood test was also effective at determining which women did not have cancer -- but the test did indicate cancer in three women who did not have he disease.

This means that the test would indicate ovarian cancer in 5% of women when they, in fact, would not have it.

Today's standard test is accurate in detecting advanced ovarian cancer, but it only picks up early cancers 50%-60% of the time.

Not only did the new test identify all of the women with ovarian cancer, it was good enough to find 100% of the women with early-stage disease.

The test isn't ready for immediate use. It has to go through clinical trials and wouldn't be available for several years. Further research needs to confirm these initial findings and determine which women would benefit from the test.

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