A researcher suggest that testing women suspected of ovarian cancer for a combination of proteins, or biomarkers in the blood called HE4 and CA 125 can provide for an accurate diagnosis of the disease.
Presently, there is no adequate diagnostic test for ovarian cancer. However CA 125 is the only blood test that can be used to help predict a woman's risk for ovarian cancer.
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"Roughly 20 percent of women will be diagnosed with an ovarian cyst or tumour at some point in their life, and only a small percentage of these women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer," said Dr Richard Moore, lead researcher, assistant professor at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
"The problem is that current methods for distinguishing benign ovarian tumours from malignant ones are limited and as a result, women must undergo surgery without an accurate assessment as to their risk for having ovarian cancer prior to their surgery," added Moore, also a gynecologic oncologist in the Program in Women's Oncology at Women & Infants' Hospital of Rhode Island.
Earlier, Moore had identified nine potential biomarkers and the ability of multiple marker combinations to predict the risk for ovarian cancer in women.
The study had also shown that the combination of HE4 and CA 125 provided the highest-level sensitivity and specificity out of all marker combinations for predicting the presence of ovarian cancer.
The team studied 496 women presenting with pelvic mass or ovarian cysts to determine if tests targeting multiple markers utilizing HE4 and CA 125
They further evaluated the levels of the biomarkers within the women's blood and then compared the results with biopsies of their tumours.
The combination of biomarkers performed well in both pre- and post-menopausal women, accurately stratifying 95 percent of patients with epithelial cancer as high risk and 75 percent of benign cases as low risk.
"By using the combination of HE4 and CA 125 as a model to assess a women's risk for ovarian cancer, physicians can better triage patients for care and refer them to the appropriate specialist," he said.