Study Yields Biomarkers for Detecting Cancer

Researchers find three new biomarkers for ovarian cancer that may greatly improve diagnosis at an early stage, reducing the mortality rate.

A study released this week in the journal Cancer Research announced strides in the fight against early-stage ovarian cancer with the discovery of biomarkers and the development of tools to detect it.

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine performed the study in collaboration with diagnostic company Ciphergens Biomarker Discovery Center. Researchers discovered three novel proteins associated with early-stage ovarian cancer.

Read the full study results at the Cancer Research site.

The only tumor marker now available for ovarian cancer is CA125, which is approved only for monitoring recurrence. It has a sensitivity of only 30 percent to 50 percent. The study found that the three new biomarkers in combination with CA125 greatly improved sensitivity for early-stage ovarian cancer detection to 74 percent.

About 23,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually. The disease also results in more than 14,000 deaths every year. When ovarian cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, the cure rate approaches 80 percent. Most women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the later stages.

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The study used Ciphergens SELDI-based ProteinChip System to generate protein expression profiles from serum obtained from 503 women with ovarian cancer, with benign pelvic disease, or who were healthy.

After obtaining the samples from four hospitals, a cross-validation and independent-validation study design was employed. Researchers used a bioinformatics program to discover the three biomarkers and to generate a multimarker pattern.

"Because of the rigorous, multi-institutional study design and the use of independent validation, we believe these results are more likely to be reproducible and therefore translated to clinical practice," said Dr. Robert Bast, vice president of translational medicine at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and co-author of the paper. "Diagnosis of early-stage ovarian cancer could play a critical role in decreasing the mortality from this disease."

The study results are being validated in a larger trial with 1,500 subjects. In order to commercialize the discovery, Ciphergen is also developing diagnostic assays.

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