Experimental Blood Test:Uterine & Ovarian

Test for ovarian, uterine cancers promising

2002-05-06 16:56:15 -0400 (Reuters Health)

By Jacqueline Stenson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Health)

An experimental blood test may one day help doctors detect ovarian and uterine cancers at earlier, more treatable stages than is currently possible, preliminary research suggests.

The test detects membrane fragments from tumors that have been shed into the blood, explained study author Dr. Karen Lyons, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

"We hopefully can use these membrane fragments as markers for detecting early stages of ovarian and endometrial (uterine) tumors," Lyons told Reuters Health.

In a study released here Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Lyons and colleagues reported that the test could help differentiate between benign and malignant ovarian disease and between early-stage and late-stage uterine cancer.

Currently there are no early screening tests for either cancer. And while uterine cancers can usually be successfully treated, most ovarian cancers are diagnosed when they have already spread to other organs and are difficult to treat.

The study involved more than 175 women who were healthy or had benign or malignant ovarian disease or early- or late-stage uterine cancer.

When the researchers took blood samples from the women, they found tumor membrane fragments in those with both ovarian and uterine cancers. In addition, women with late-stage uterine cancer had more membrane fragments in their blood than women with early-stage disease.

However, no membrane fragments were found in healthy women or those with benign ovarian disease, results showed.

The study also found that certain proteins that have previously been associated with these cancers--MMP-2, MMP-9 and Fas ligand--were present on the membrane fragments.

Study author Dr. Douglas Taylor, also an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Louisville, said that since these proteins also can be elevated with other conditions, the new test would allow doctors to better differentiate the underlying reason for elevated blood levels.

"This gives cancer specificity to the current markers," Taylor said.

He said the new test might also be used with other proteins, such as CA125, to determine whether elevated CA125 levels indicate ovarian cancer or another condition such as endometriosis. CA125 is a protein known to be elevated in patients with ovarian cancer.

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