Here's what Dr Simon Newman, our Head of Research, had to say:
"It has been known for many years that tumours shed cancer cells into the blood stream, and this new research combines two cutting edge technologies to identify these markers of cancer. In this study, the researchers showed that in a relatively small sample of cancer patients the test picked up cancer cells in 80 per cent of the patients with ovarian cancer, which is an improvement on previous methods. Refining the technology further resulted in 100 per cent of cancers being picked up in a sample of just seven ovarian cancer patients.
“The future potential of this technology was demonstrated on one woman who underwent preventative surgery without an ovarian cancer diagnosis. The patient was at high risk of developing ovarian cancer, and carried similar gene mutations as Angelia Jolie, and despite the absence of an initial diagnosis this technology did detect cancer cells in her blood. Following surgery ovarian cancer was, in fact, found. However, it’s important to remember that this a single patient, and before this could reach the clinic, large, time consuming clinical studies would need to be undertaken. Currently there is no proven screening programme for women at a high risk of ovarian cancer and all women should be aware of the symptoms and go straight to their GP if they have any concerns.
“Many groups across the world are working on similar technologies as detecting ovarian cancer earlier would dramatically improve survival rates. To put this into context, the current five year survival rates of ovarian cancer are just 43 per cent. Whilst these results are encouraging, much more research and large clinical studies are required to validate these very preliminary findings before this technology could be used on a day to day basis. Target Ovarian Cancer is working hard to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, improve earlier diagnosis and is jointly funding a study with the Medical Research Council (MRC) here in the UK to develop molecular methods to detect ovarian cancer in blood samples to aid earlier diagnosis.”