Doctors and hospitals are getting a new test that many think will help fight ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest cancers, by helping them to more quickly distinguish cancerous from benign growths.
The test, which is called OVA1 and will be available for general use Tuesday, was shown to correctly flag 92 percent of cancers, when used along with radiological imaging and a standard patient work-up, in a study of 27 hospitals, doctors' offices and clinics. Physicians using their usual detection methods but not OVA1 had previously found 72 percent of the cancers.
"It is an amazing move forward," said Cara Tenenbaum, vice president of policy for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, a nonprofit patient advocacy group.
The test, though, has a serious downside: It generates a lot of false positives. Of the women flagged as likely having cancer, 64 percent didn't, as determined by biopsies done during surgery. False positives might prompt, in addition to the likely emotional suffering, women to make an out-of-town trip to have surgery under a specialist's care when it could have been done at a local hospital. The trial funded by Vermillion Inc., of Fremont, Calif., which developed the test, found that physicians' current methods, which generally included another blood test, an exam and imaging, had a false-alarm rate of only 40 percent.
Ovarian cancer, the ninth most common cancer among women, has a dismal 47 percent survival rate, up from 38 percent in the mid-to-late 1970s.