Monday, February 25, 2008

New blood test for ovarian cancer

First it was 'Kathy's story,' an e-mail that circulated for several years about Kathy and her tragic bout of peritoneal cancer. The moral of her story was get a CA125 test. I read the latest header on the latest CA125 e-mail as my patient set it on the desk in front of me today, 'Do not take no for an answer.' Another day, another woman wishing we had a decent test to detect early ovarian cancer.

I would never deny a woman this test, but I do emphasize to those who ask that it is a terrible screening test for ovarian cancers. Believe me, I wish both personally and professionally that we get a good test, both sensitive (picks up ovarian cancers reliably when they're present) and specific (only positive when there actually is a tumor), and let it be found ASAP!

Coincidentally, this headline news came across my screen tonight. So put this in an e-mail and circulate it to all your girlfriends!

"Blood test detects early stage ovarian cancer with 99 percent accuracy"

Yale researchers went looking for unique proteins shed by ovarian tumors. Since these proteins are only made by ovarian cancer cells, their presence in a patient's blood is diagnostic of a tumor. Apparently, however, it takes a heap of a lot of cancer cells to raise protein levels to detectable levels, so the first test attempt based only on tumor proteins was not sensitive for early cancers. On a second pass, the New Haven scientists added an assay for proteins made by a woman's body in response to the foreign tumor tissue.

Score! Four tumor proteins plus two immune-response proteins equals this new highly sensitive, highly specific test. The test now enters phase III clinical trials--the last step before applying for FDA approval--through the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)and LabCorp.


rlbates said...

Won't that be wonderful if it pans out!!!

Dr. Smak said...

Very promising!

Mauigirl said...

Excellent! Right now I have a cyst on my ovary that I've had for quite a long time - I keep getting ultrasounds for it and it keeps coming back as benign but no one really knows unless they cut into it! I'm seriously thinking of having the major surgery required to remove it! Maybe I can have this test instead.

Mauigirl said...

Note that as a "professional hypochondriac" as I like to refer to myself, my first thought is always "How do I use this new information to diagnose whatever disease I currently am afraid I have???"