Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast have discovered a new test that can pick up one of the hardest cancers to diagnose early.
Current blood tests created to look for elevated levels of the protein CA125 have problems, because this protein is also elevated during pregnancy and menstruation, so results can be unclear.
Because the symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague or even absent, it has become one of the deadliest types of cancers. As a result, it’s often not diagnosed until it’s at a later stage.
Following that diagnosis, the chance of surviving for five years is just 22 per cent.
Over a seven-year period, researchers from the university analysed blood samples from 80 women. They developed an algorithm, which flags abnormal protein levels.
Researchers hope that this could eventually be used to screen women on an annual basis. Dr Bobby Grham said: “We are extremely excited about these results, however, they are at an early stage.
“This needs to be tested in separate larger cohorts which we are currently doing.”
This research was carried out in partnership with the University of New South Wales, University of Manchester and University College London, as well as being published in the journal Nature.
In 2016, over 4,000 deaths were reported as a result of Epithelial Overian Cancer (EOC). However, if diagnosed at stage one of EOC, the chance of a five-year survival goes up to 90 per cent compared to 22 per cent if diagnosed at later stages.
Dr Rachel Shaw, Research Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Around half of ovarian cancer cases are picked up at a late stage, when treatment is less likely to be successful. So developing simple tests like these that could help detect the disease sooner is essential.
“At Cancer Research UK, we’re working hard to find new ways to detect cancer early and improve the tests already available. It’s really exciting to see these encouraging results for this type of ovarian cancer.”