A study recently published in the journal Cancer Research shows how blood tests can be a helpful tool in detecting ovarian cancer in its early stages.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, who found that some genes in ovarian cancer patients have undergone a process called hypermethylation, which is a process used by cancer cells to “turn off” genes that would normally stop or slow tumor growth. Because genetic material can be found in the blood, the hypermethylated genes can be detected in blood samples.
To conduct the study, the researchers took blood samples from 50 women with ovarian or primary peritoneal cancer. They found that in 82 percent of the patients, a total of six genes had undergone hypermethalation. The hypermethylated genes were not found in patients who did not have cancer.
While there is a blood test – the CA125 – currently in use to detect early-stage ovarian cancer, this test works differently, measuring protein produced by ovarian cancer cells rather than genetic material. The test often yields inaccurate results, however – especially in early stages of the disease.
Ovarian cancer is currently one of the most difficult cancers to detect in its early stages. The hypermethalation test, if accuracy results remain consistent, will represent a big step forward in the battle of the disease.