A protein long-recognized for predicting ovarian cancer recurrence has promise of being used as an early screening tool for early-stage cancer. The report comes from researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Earlier findings were presented at the 2010 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.
Researchers at MD Anderson have been working on the protein biomarker for decades. Robert Bast, M.D., vice president for translational research at MD Anderson and co-investigator on the ASCO study, found CA-125 and its predictive value of ovarian cancer recurrence in the 1980s. Moving forward, scientists at MD Anderson worked on determining the protein biomarker’s role in early ovarian cancer detection. One of the difficulties with the biomarker is that the molecule it recognizes can become elevated for reasons other than ovarian cancer. This can lead to false positives in screening.
According to Karen Lu, MD, professor and chair, Department of Gynecologic Oncology and the study’s corresponding author, whose own work on the CA-125 Protein Biomarker proved to be Highly Effective For Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer: “Over the last ten years, there’s been a lot of excitement over new markers and technologies in ovarian cancer. I and other scientists in the gynecologic oncology community thought we would ultimately find a better marker than CA-125 for the early detection of the disease. After looking at new markers and testing them head-to-head in strong, scientific studies, we found no marker better than CA-125.” Having a marker for early diagnoses means the cancer is not only treatable but curable.
The American Cancer society reports that over 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013 and more than 14,000 will die from the disease. According to Lu, more than70 percent of women are diagnosed with advanced disease.
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With all this in mind, a single-arm, 11-year trial was established with 4,051 women who were healthy and post-menopausal ranging in ages from 50-74. The women were enrolled from seven different sites with MD Anderson as the lead site. None of the women had a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer. What the researchers are looking for is biomarker specificity, or few false positives. They were also concerned about the positive predictive value. In other words, the number of operations required to detect a case of cancer.
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