Simple blood test developed to improve ovarian cancer diagnosis

Sydney: Researchers have developed a simple blood test that measures the body’s own immune response to improve the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that testing for a specific immune biomarker allows clinicians to identify whether growths on the ovaries are cancerous or not, without the need for tests like the MRI scans or ultrasounds.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common gynecologic cancers, with the highest mortality rate. About 300,000 new cases are diagnosed globally each year, with an estimated 60 per cent of women dying within five years after diagnosis.

“Our new test is as accurate as the combined results of a standard blood test and ultrasound. This is especially important for women in remote or disadvantaged communities, where under-resourced hospitals may not have access to complex and expensive equipment like ultrasound machines or MRI scanners,” said study senior author
Magdalena Plebanski from the RMIT University in Australia.

“It also means patients with benign cysts identified through imaging could potentially be spared unnecessary surgeries,” Plebanski added.

According to the researchers, the test could be an important diagnostic tool for assessing suspicious ovarian growths before operations.

“This study looked at women with advanced ovarian cancer, but we hope further research could explore the potential for adding this biomarker to routine diagnostic tests at earlier stages of the disease,” Plebanski said.

The study used an immune marker for inflammation (IL-6) together with cancer markers to detect epithelial ovarian cancer in blood.

According to the researchers, results were validated across two separate human trial cohorts.

“Every day in Australia, four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and three will die from the disease,” Plebanski said.

“Developing tests that are simpler and more practical may help get more women to hospital for treatment more effectively, with the hope that survival rates will improve,” Plebanski concluded.