Researchers ID Ovarian Cancer Biomarker

Sept. 24 -- TUESDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- A genetic marker for the vascular (blood vessel) cells associated with ovarian cancer tumor growth has been identified by U.S. researchers, who said their finding may help improve diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

The team at the University of Pennsylvania Ovarian Cancer Research Center found that high levels of TEM1 are associated with decreased survival of ovarian cancer patients.

They also found that all 52 samples of ovarian cancer they examined tested positive for TEM1 in the vasculature, which suggests that TEM1 is a specific marker for ovarian cancer.

The findings were to be presented this week at the American Association for Cancer Research Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development meeting, in Philadelphia.

Researchers are working to develop drugs that target the vasculature that surround ovarian tumors in order to disrupt the blood supply that feeds tumor growth.

"This will have to be borne out in further studies, but if we can normalize the vasculature surrounding the tumor, we will have a better chance of eradicating the tumor," study author Chunsheng Li, a postdoctoral research fellow at the ovarian cancer research center, said in an American Association for Cancer Research news release.

Any breakthrough in the detection of ovarian cancer would be very significant because there are currently no reliable methods for detecting the disease at an early stage, when it is easiest to treat.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in women, skin cancer aside. It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death in women. The society estimates that there will be about 22,430 new cases of ovarian cancer in this country this year, and about 15,280 women will die this year because of the disease. Around two-thirds of women with ovarian cancer are 55 or older; it's slightly more common in white women that black women.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Sept. 23, 2008