New Blood Test Diagnoses Ovarian Cancer

Originally published May 7, 2024

Last updated May 7, 2024

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A blue ribbon next to red blood cells

A breakthrough study led by USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers may offer doctors a blood test to diagnose the most common and deadliest form of ovarian cancer.

Unlike with many other cancers, biopsies to detect ovarian cancer are typically not an option. That makes it hard for doctors to choose the best course of treatment without first conducting surgery.

“There is a need for physicians to know what they’re dealing with before surgery,” says Lynda Roman, MD, a gynecologic oncologist for USC Norris, part of Keck Medicine of USC, one of the study’s co-authors. “This test will help in starting to find a way to diagnose this disease early.”

Knowing more about a pelvic mass before surgery could point to which type of surgeon and which method of surgery is best, Dr. Roman says. When ovarian cancer is found early, patients have a more than 90% chance of living for five years or more.

Their chances drop to less than 40% if the cancer is detected in advanced stages.

The new test, which has 91% accuracy, detects specific nucleic acids circulating in the blood.

Its high accuracy means it is both highly sensitive and specific, while most other tests on the market are high in one and low in the other, according to Bodour Salhia, PhD, leader of the Epigenetic Regulation in Cancer Program at USC Norris and the study’s corresponding author.

The researchers are launching a follow-up study to validate their results, which were published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. Afterward, they plan to release a commercially viable version of the test for clinical use within two years.

They will also investigate whether it can be used to screen the general population, giving doctors a chance to catch ovarian cancer early in asymptomatic patients.

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Michael Juliani
Michael Juliani is the managing editor for USC Health.

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USC Health Magazine 2024 Issue #1

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