A simple new blood test could save thousands of lives by detecting ovarian cancer two years earlier than current methods.
Researchers said the breakthrough by British universities raises hope of a national ovarian cancer screening program.
The test looks for tell-tale signs of tumors circulating in the blood and has been described as “very promising” by health charities.
It detects epithelial ovarian cancer, which is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 85 to 95% of all cancers of the ovaries, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. These tumors form in the tissue covering the ovary.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths, the NOCC said, and it is known as the “silent killer” because it is often diagnosed late. Patients have a 90% chance of being alive five years later if diagnosed with EOC early.
But their odds plummet to just 22% if detected at more advanced stages.
Scientists developed the test on blood taken from 80 volunteers over a seven-year period and are planning further trials.
Queen’s University Belfast, University College London and the University of Manchester are among those who worked on it.
“The screening test identifies ovarian cancer up to two years before the current tests allow,” said Dr. Bobby Graham of QUB. “The results of this study are encouraging, however, we now want to focus on testing it in a wider sample set so that we can use the data to advocate for an ovarian cancer screening program.”
“Around half of ovarian cancer cases are picked up at a late stage, when treatment is less likely to be successful,” said Dr. Rachel Shaw of Cancer Research UK. “So developing simple tests like these that could help detect the disease sooner is essential.”
Annwen Jones of charity Target Ovarian Cancer said that “progress is desperately needed in detecting ovarian cancer earlier. These are very promising early results, but the number of women involved is still too small,” but she added that “further research would be needed to see if this could be the new, safe and effective diagnostic test that women deserve, and which could be used in ovarian cancer screening.”
The findings are published in the journal Nature.
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