A new study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology reveals that blood tests might be more effective in detecting ovarian cancer than traditional methods.
Ovarian cancer is responsible for the death of about 46,000 women every year. In the U.S., 20,600 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and more than half of them died. The estimations for this year are no different, according to the American Cancer Society. This is a type of cancer that is not easily diagnosed, as its symptoms are not necessarily specific to this tumor only (bloating and abdominal pain). This is why it is considered to be a deadly cancer.
Until now, screening methods have not been very successful at diagnosing ovarian cancer early enough to save lives. Their accuracy could not go beyond 46 percent. This is why the outcomes of the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening, carried out by the University College London, might lead to diagnosing more cases of ovarian cancer, in a more effective way.
The researchers tested the levels of protein CA125 in the women’s blood. This protein is also regarded as tumor marker or biomarker, because it can be found in higher levels in tumor cells (especially ovarian) than it is in healthy blood cells. Women that are at a risk of having ovarian cancer are usually tested to have the levels of this proteins analyzed. The method has been widely used for a long time but the researchers at the University College London have come up with an algorithm linked to this protein – the ROCA algorithm, which can diagnose ovarian cancer in 86 percent of cases. Basically, this algorithm is based on a statistical calculation method that aims to interpret the recorded variations of this protein in every patient’s blood. More than 46,000 women took part in the experiment and had a blood test every year in order to check their CA125 level. The method involved using a computer that took into account a variety of factors as well as the variations in the level of protein to predict the risk of ovarian cancer.
According to Professor Ian Jacobs, it is these levels of proteins and the way they change throughout the years that can best predict such risks.
The coordinator of this trial that took 14 years, Professor Usha Menon said that it won’t be long before the ROCA method will be used as a very important screening method in ovarian cancer. According to him, this tool will be available on the market by the end of this year. He did not comment on the costs this method will involve.
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