New blood test makes it easier to diagnose ovarian cancer

Published: 2019-06-24


In a recent study, led by Ulf Gyllensten (SciLifeLab / Uppsala University), researchers from Uppsala University and the University of Gothenburg, developed a new blood test that can distinguish between malignant and benign ovarian tumors in order to avoid unnecessary and risky surgery in women with suspected cancer.

Ovarian cancer is often discovered late and because of that the mortality rate is high. Out of ten patients only 3-4 survives more than five years after receiving treatment. Today there is no screening program and the only way to determine if the patient has a malignant tumor is to perform surgery. This means that most women who undergo surgery turns out to be completely healthy or have benign tumors.

“We need more accurate diagnostics. We detect only one case of cancer in every five women we perform surgery on, but it is still the safest option when we find something on the ultrasound and there is a suspicion of cancer. There is a big need for a simple blood test that can distinguish between healthy women and women with cancer”, says Karin Sundfeldt, senior physician and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, in a press release from Uppsala University.

The researchers developed a biomarker test consisting of 11 proteins. If something abnormal is detected on the ultrasound the doctor can order a blood test and protein analysis can help determine if surgery is needed or not. Using the test would make it possible to detect cancer in one out of every three women and thus avoid unnecessary and risky surgery.

The biomarker test also makes it possible to find borderline cases and early stages of cancer.

“The results are so promising that we are ready to start planning on how screening for early detection of ovarian cancer would be carried out. Sweden has extensive experience in screening for cervical cancer and I see many opportunities to develop strategies for screening ovarian cancer that can save lives but at the same time minimize the number of surgery needed for women that don’t have cancer”, says Ulf Gyllensten, professor of medical molecular genetics at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology at Uppsala University.

Read the publication in Nature Communications Biology.