Biomarker CA-125 shows promise as screening tool for early detection of ovarian cancer

CA-125, the protein recognized for predicting ovarian cancer recurrence, now shows promise as a screening tool for early-stage disease of ovarian cancer. The simple blood test could offer a much-needed screening tool to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages – even in the most aggressive forms.

MD Anderson has a long history in the research of the important biomarker. In the 1980s, Robert Bast, M.D., vice president for translational research at MD Anderson and co-investigator on the ASCO study, discovered CA-125 and its predictive value of ovarian cancer recurrence.

Since then, researchers at MD Anderson and beyond have been trying to determine its role in early disease detection.

The marker, however, can become elevated for reasons other than ovarian cancer, leading to false positives in early screening.

“Over the last ten years, there’s been a lot of excitement over new markers and technologies in ovarian cancer,” said Karen Lu, MD, professor and chair, Department of Gynecologic Oncology and the study’s corresponding author. “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.”

According to the American Cancer Society, 22,240 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013 and another 14,030 are expected to die from the disease. The challenge, explained Lu, is that more than 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with advanced disease.

“Finding a screening mechanism would be the Holy Grail in the fight against ovarian cancer, because when caught early it is not just treatable, but curable,” said Lu, also the trial’s principal investigator.

The study is continuing; and, as follow-up, Lu and her team plan to look at combining other markers with CA-125 to determine the screening impact of their combined change over time.

Source: University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, USA

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