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Lead researcher: Dr Elizabeth Moore

Location: University of Cambridge

Research strand: Early diagnosis              

Dr Moore has been investigating novel methods for the earlier and more precise detection of ovarian cancer.

There is currently no proven screening test for ovarian cancer. The cervical smear test does not detect ovarian cancer and a complete diagnosis is only possible through investigative surgery. The aim of this study is to develop a new and more accurate way of diagnosing ovarian cancer by detecting alterations in DNA in routine blood and cervical smear samples.

Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is key to survival. Two-thirds of women are diagnosed too late, once the cancer has already spread, making treatment more difficult. If an accurate test can be developed to detect ovarian cancer early, it would have a significant impact on women receiving treatment as soon as possible, thereby increasing their likelihood of survival.

Dr Moore has shown that very small levels of DNA from ovarian tumours can be detected in the circulating blood of women with newly diagnosed ovarian cancer, including in women with early stage disease. These findings could help overcome current limitations of similar testing, allowing for a more accurate way to diagnose ovarian cancer earlier. Dr Moore's approach has strong potential for being translted to the clinic, due to its low cost and scope for analysing a high volume of samples. 

Dr Moore also demonstrated that the sensitivity of this test can be increased by analysing differences in the size of DNA fragments from cancer cells in comparison to normal cells. Unlike a tumour biopsy, testing for tumour DNA in blood samples would be a non-invasive test for cancer diagnosis, and could in future work for an ovarian cancer screening process. 

Whilst considerably more research is required to develop an accurate, reliable method for diagnosing ovarian cancer early, this research paves the way for such a test. Dr Moore has had the results from her research published in the highly respected journal, Science Transalational Medicine.


Dr Moore was the first recipient of the highly prestigious joint Target Ovarian Cancer and Medical Research Council Joint Clinical Research Training Fellowship, a programme dedicated to training the ovarian cancer clinical researchers of the future. We are delighted that our joint fellowship with the Medical Research Council has made such strides towards the earlier diagnosis of this devastating disease.

It's time to TAKE OVAR

Dr Moore starred in our TAKE OVAR campaign to raise awareness and raise funds for ovarian cancer. Backstage at the photoshoot she spoke to us about her research -