Combo Test Might Spot Ovarian Cancer Early

Jan. 22, 2010 -- THURSDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The ability to detect early-stage ovarian cancer may be improved by using contrast-enhanced ultrasound combined with proteomic analyses of blood samples, a new study shows.

Proteomics is the study of proteins, particularly their structure and function. Hundreds of proteins have been identified that may serve as biomarkers for ovarian cancer and help detect it in its early stages, the researchers noted.

The study findings are published in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Each year, more than 21,500 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and nearly 15,000 women die from the disease, making it the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in the nation. In 67 percent of patients, ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the survival rate is only 30 percent. The survival rate for early-stage ovarian cancer is more than 90 percent.

"The fact that so many women are not diagnosed until their disease is advanced confirms the inadequacy of pelvic examinations and standard ultrasound in detecting early-stage ovarian cancer and the dire need for a validated screening method for the detection of early-stage disease," study author Dr. David A. Fishman said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

"The ability to detect ovarian cancer by a simple blood test has long been the holy grail of screening tests. Although a single biomarker blood test would be ideal and simple, it is not possible at present," he noted.

He and his colleagues at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center concluded that contrast-enhanced ultrasound may help confirm or refute the ability of newly discovered biomarkers to detect early-stage ovarian cancer.

"We also found that the contrast agents may significantly improve the diagnostic ability of ultrasound to identify early microvascular changes that are known to be associated with early-stage ovarian cancer," study co-author Dr. Arthur C. Fleischer said in the news release.

"Separately, proteomics and ultrasound are of limited value as early-detection tools. However, in combination, we will likely be able to shift from an era of diagnosing advanced-stage ovarian cancer to that of early-stage disease and, most important, save the lives of many women," Fleischer said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer.

SOURCE: American College of Radiology/American Roentgen Ray Society, news release, Jan. 21, 2010