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Antibody Could Help Predict Ovarian Cancer

Researchers Say Discovery Could Lead to New Tests and Treatments

Infertility and Ovarian Cancer continued...

The women were rendered infertile by a variety of conditions, including endometriosis, premature ovarian failure, and irregular ovulation, and in cases where the infertility was unexplained. 

Research has shown that women who are infertile face two to four times the odds of getting ovarian cancer, though the reason for the connection is not fully understood.

In its early stages, ovarian cancer has few symptoms. By the time most women are diagnosed, the disease is often advanced and odds of survival are poor.

"We're trying to detect the occurrence of these tumors extremely early." Luborsky says. "We believe there are early signs."

Researchers compared the antibody levels of women with infertility to the levels found in the blood of women with no fertility problems, those with benign tumors or cysts, and those with ovarian cancers.

Significant antibody levels were found in women with ovarian problems, unexplained infertility, and those with cancer, but not in women who were healthy, those who had endometriosis, or those with benign disease.

Researchers say their results suggest that the antibodies to mesothelin may help pick out a group of women at risk for a particular kind of ovarian tumor, called a serous tumor.

Women with endometriosis usually get a different kind of ovarian cancer, called an endometrioid tumor.

"The findings are consistent with the fact that this particular marker we chose is possibly predicting serous ovarian cancer, which is the most nasty, aggressive kind," Luborsky says.

More research is needed to help explain why elevated antibodies may increase a woman's risk of cancer.

But if ovarian cancer does prove to have an autoimmune component, Luborsky says it could one day be possible to give a woman at risk a drug that could reduce her risk of ovarian cancer by turning off the immune attack.

"The endpoint of that would be to ask if we could interrupt that process and prevent cancer," she says.

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