A potential new form of screening for ovarian cancer is showing promise.
Improving detection of the disease would have a significant impact on survival, which can be as high as 90% if caught in the early stages, but the non-specific symptoms are often missed, delaying diagnosis.
New research reported in the journal Cancer used blood tests to assess levels of the biomarker CA125, a protein that is expressed at higher levels in ovarian cancer. More than 4,000 women took part in the trial, which assigned them to low, medium or high risk groups based on their CA125 levels.
Different strategies were used for each group; high risk patients received ultrasound scans to detect any tumours; medium risk patients were re-tested for CA125 levels after three months, and low risk patients after a year. Over eleven years, ten women had tumours identified following a high risk result and ultrasound scan, all of them early-stage.
Whilst this was a useful proof-of-principle, a massive UK study (UKTOC) including 50,000 women who were screened using the biomarker and 50,000 by ultrasound, is expected to give more definitive answers when it reports in 2015.