Some 23,300 American women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and the disease is expected to cause 13,900 deaths. It accounts for 4 percent of all cancers among women. A simple blood test may be able to identify ovarian cancer at its earliest stage. Currently, around three-quarters of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in advanced stages of the disease, when they have only about a 20 percent chance of surviving five years. But if the disease is caught early, the five-year survival is around 95 percent.
So providing a way to routinely identify the disease in its stage I phase "could have a dramatic impact in what is now a very deadly cancer," said Dr. Elise Kohn, a study author. Researchers tried their test on blood samples from 50 women with ovarian cancer and 66 women without the disease. The test correctly identified all 50 samples from the cancer patients, including all 18 samples from women with Stage I disease. And it recognized 63 of the 66 samples that were non-cancerous.
The researchers said that if the test proves useful it would be applied initially in women considered at high risk because of their genetic makeup or family history of the disease. Eventually, it might be extended to other women as well, they said. The experimental test measures the levels of five proteins found in the blood. The combined result in a blood sample is used to indicate the presence of cancer, said Kohn. The test would need further study in the general population to assess its accuracy in that group.