There has been a lot of coverage in the news today of a new test being developed in the United States that aims to detect eight different cancers (ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, bowel, lung and breast) earlier.1
This test aims to combine checking for tumour DNA and certain types of protein, including CA125 which features in the current diagnostic test for ovarian cancer.
To check if the test worked at identifying these cancers, researchers applied it to patients who had already been diagnosed with cancer and people in the general population with no ill health. They found that it succeeded in identifying the cancer in the cases already diagnosed – without wrongly identifying cancer in healthy volunteers.
The next step is for the test to be trialled in the general population to see if it succeeds in identifying cancers not yet diagnosed.
Initial results are promising and it would be truly transformative if a test could be developed that detected ovarian cancer significantly earlier. At this stage though there are some important points to remember:
- While the test correctly identified 98 per cent of patients with ovarian cancer, part of the test included testing for the CA125 protein, something which already happens when diagnosing ovarian cancer and is already known to be raised in the majority of women with the disease.
- The test is aimed at detecting cancer earlier. While findings are not broken down by different tumours, overall the test identified just 43 per cent of stage I cancers.
We look forward to seeing more detail on the current findings, including a full breakdown of those for ovarian cancer and hearing more about next steps. Learning more about how effective the test was at detecting stage I ovarian cancer will be vital, as the disease is much easier to treat at this stage.
Target Ovarian Cancer is currently funding research to investigate novel methods for the earlier and more precise detection of ovarian cancer. Dr Elizabeth Moore’s project at the University of Cambridge continues to contribute to the important work being carried out all over the world in this area.
While we wait for progress in this area, it remains important to continue raising awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, both among women and GPs. Join us and TAKE OVAR this Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to help raise awareness, fund research and save lives.
Find out more
- If you are worried about ovarian cancer and its symptoms and would like to access support and advice, contact our Support Line
- Read more about our research into a new test to detect ovarian cancer early
- Donate today to fund more research like this
Cohen, J. D. et al (2018) Detection and localization of surgically resectable cancers with a multi-analyte blood test. Science. Available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2018/01/17/science.aar3247