Groundbreaking research has led to the development of a test that detects ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than current approaches…

Queen’s University Belfast researchers have discovered the presence of four proteins together, known as a biomarker panel, that indicate the likelihood of Epithelial Ovarian Cancer (EOC), a type of ovarian cancer.

Using these biomarkers, they developed a screening test that may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years before current detection tests.

The research was carried out in partnership with the University of New South Wales Australia, University of Milan, University of Manchester and University College London.

Seven-year study

The study, published in the journal Nature, involved the analysis of blood samples from 80 individuals across a seven-year period.

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“Firstly, we discovered that the presence of the biomarker panel will enable us to detect EOC. We then developed a screening test to detect this biomarker panel, making this a relatively simple diagnostic test,” explains Dr Bobby Graham from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast and lead author of the study.

“The algorithm designed will screen the blood sample and flag any abnormal levels of the proteins associated with the cancer. The screening test identifies ovarian cancer up to two years before the current tests allow.”

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Ovarian cancer survival rate

Most ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian cancers (EOC), which is cancer that forms in the tissue covering the ovary.

If diagnosed at stage one of EOC, there is a 90% chance of five-year survival compared to 22% if diagnosed at a stage three or four.

“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,” says Dr Rachel Shaw, Research Information Manager at Cancer Research UK.

“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.”

The project was jointly funded by the Eve Appeal charity and Cancer Research UK.

Source: Queen’s University Belfast

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