Simple Blood Test May Detect Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer chemotherapy monitoring microRNA 195

(RxWiki News) A new blood test may be able to differentiate between benign or malignant ovarian tumors.  And most importantly, whether chemotherapy is necessary.

A group of researchers from Monter Cancer Center, part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting, showing that use of the blood test they have developed detects a genetic marker for ovarian cancer.

After statistical analysis, the researchers concluded that the genetic marker successfully indicates both the aggressiveness of the cancer and the level of responsiveness to chemotherapy.

"Ask your oncologist about genetic tests."

Due to the hidden nature of the cancer, symptoms from ovarian tumors may not show up until late in the disease, when treatments have the least amount of success.

This research follows several other studies where microRNAs have been linked to various types of cancer. Data presented at the conference showed that during chemotherapy microRNA-195 levels rose 40 times normal levels, and microRNA-16 rose to 80 times normal levels.

Over twenty patients were involved in the trial, and results were clear. Surgical removal of the ovaries was undertaken on these 20 patients with ovarian lesions to confirm the results from microRNA levels present in the blood.

The data from six patients with benign growths on their ovaries showed low levels of these microRNAs, and 14 patients with carcinoma all had higher levels of the genetic markers present in their blood.

Exactly why this happens is not well understood by the researchers, but further development of this test would differentiate between high and low grade ovarian cancers without surgery.

It may also serve as a marker to see how well treatment is working. Researchers hope that further research in this area, and use of the test, will allow for the lowest effective level of chemotherapy to be used, minimizing side effects.

"The discovery that microRNAs can help predict the best treatment plan for women with ovarian cancer, who are most likely at stage III of the disease, offers them enormous hope," noted Iuliana Shapira, MD.

"We can now inform patients at stage III ovarian cancer, if they will have success with chemotherapy following surgery, similar to patients who are at stage 1 disease. This information gives them hope that their disease is curable despite being diagnosed at an advanced stage."

Dr. Shapira announced plans for more extensive testing and development to confirm these results in a larger patient cohort.

Researchers stated there were no financial conflicts of interest with the publication of their research.

Data presented at medical conferences is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
April 20, 2012