Ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer, is diagnosed in more than 20,000 women annually. Until recently, it has been difficult to diagnose at an early stage, but a new screening method for this disease could detect twice the amount than existing methods.
The risk of ovarian cancer (ROCA) detection strategies has commonly used single-biomarker thresholds to identify abnormality. Usha Menon, MD, and colleagues at the University of College London investigated the impact of serial biomarker change interpreted through a risk algorithm on cancer detection rates. Researchers used a different algorithm to interpret changing levels in women's annual serum cancer antigen 125 (CA125) protein, which has a better rate of detection than standard methods, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
In the United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening, 46,237 women, age 50 or older, underwent screening that measured (CA-125) to help determine the level of risk of ovarian cancer in each patient. Women were separated into three groups: normal risk (returned to annual screening), intermediate risk (repeat CA-125), and elevated risk (repeat CA-125 and transvaginal ultrasound).
The results were statistically significant. This new testing strategy gives a more accurate prediction of a woman's individual risk of developing cancer, compared to the conventional screening method which uses a fixed "cutoff" point for CA-125. The new method detected cancer in 86% of women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (iEOC), whereas the conventional test used in previous trials or in clinical practice would have identified fewer than half of these women (41% or 48%, respectively).
The researchers concluded that screening by using ROCA doubled the number of screen-detected iEOCs compared with a fixed cutoff. In the context of cancer screening, this is very exciting news for a hard-to-detect cancer.