Oct. 18, 2023 – A breakthrough new test for ovarian cancer may for the first time offer a way to detect the disease before it progresses to potentially deadly later stages.
The new blood test was 91% accurate at detecting high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC), which is the most common type of ovarian cancer, according to results published this month in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. HGSOC has a 5-year survival rate of 40% or less when diagnosed at later stages, the authors said, noting that the disease is advanced beyond stage I in about 85% of women at the time of diagnosis.
Biopsies are not an option in diagnosing this type of cancer, and most people don’t have symptoms. The new test could help doctors decide on treatments, such as whether chemotherapy would be helpful before surgery, and it could also help surgeons know the likelihood of operating on a cancerous or benign mass.
HGSOC is believed to grow slowly at first, beginning in the fallopian tubes, and may take up to 6½ years to reach the ovaries, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Once it reaches the ovaries, it spreads more quickly.
The study compared blood and tissue samples from healthy people and people with HGSOC, as well as people with other health issues such as uterine or cervical cancer, to determine the test’s accuracy, which includes gauging the false-positive and false-negative rates. In all, the researchers analyzed 59 tissue samples and 344 blood samples.
The next step is a larger follow-up study with hundreds of patients to validate the results. The test may be available commercially within 2 years, according to a news release from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where the researchers work.
Called OvaPrint, the test has the potential to be used as a screening tool for ovarian cancer in the general population.
“Early detection saves lives,” study author Bodour Salhia, PhD, an associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Translational Genomics at the medical school, said in a statement. “If we can accurately identify early-stage ovarian cancer, we can change the outcome of the disease and really crank up survival rates.”