Researchers say they’ve developed a new screening method that can detect ovarian cancer in twice as many women as traditional strategies.
Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer because it is often diagnosed when the disease has already developed into an advanced stage. But now results from the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), the world's largest ovarian cancer screening trial, could mean detecting significantly more cases of ovarian cancer early enough to save lives.
The trial, led by the University College London, used a new algorithm to evaluate the levels of the blood protein CA125, known as a tumor marker or biomarker, which is found in greater concentration in tumor cells than in other cells of the body. CA125 has a particularly strong presence in ovarian cancer cells and is often tested in women at a high risk for the disease. Although CA125 testing is not new, the statistical calculation method, called ROCA algorithm, is – and gave accurate ovarian cancer detection in 86 percent of women, compared to the conventional screening method that identifies fewer than half, between 41 and 46 percent.
Previous ovarian cancer screening trials used a concrete cut-off level for CA125 to classify a potential abnormality. But risk factors are different for many women, and what is considered a high-risk level for one woman may never translate into an ovarian cancer diagnosis - while other women who don’t meet the test cut-off could be harboring the developing disease.
Professor Usha Menon, UKCTOCS co-principal investigator and trial coordinator at University College London has led the 14-year trial, and told FoxNews.com he thinks the ROCA method has the potential to be be used as a regular screening tool.
“There will be some additional cost for running ROCA, which I believe will soon be commercially available,” Menon said. “We need to wait till later this year to make a decision about screening for ovarian cancer – we will then have the final results of whether by picking up the cancers early we were able to save lives of women in UKCTOCS.”
Menon said with no national screening program for ovarian cancer, the study results are very encouraging and are a great start at a viable early detection strategy. The next step is for researchers to study mortality rates.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, about 21,290 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 14,180 women will die of ovarian cancer in the U.S.
“We need to know whether detecting these cancers earlier made a difference by decreasing the number of deaths in the screen arm when compared to the control arm of UKCTOCS where women had no screening,” Menon said.
Meanwhile, Menon said the study shows the importance of monitoring a women’s CA125 pattern over time to establish if there should be a concern. He told FoxNews.com he predicts it won’t be long before ROCA is commercially available.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.