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New ovarian cancer screening test 'more accurate'

Ovarian cancer is particularly hard to spot at an early stage. Photo: PA

A new screening test that tracks changing levels of a protein in the blood can detect twice as many ovarian cancers as conventional methods, research has shown.

The technique relies on a statistical calculation to interpret variations in the level of a protein called CA125 which is linked to ovarian cancer.

It gives a more accurate prediction of risk than the traditional diagnostic blood test which uses a fixed cut-off point for CA125.

ITV News Health Editor Rachel Younger reports.

In the world's largest ovarian cancer screening trial, the new method correctly diagnosed 86% of women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (iEOC).

The standard test would have been expected to identify fewer than half these women, according to results from previous studies and clinical practice.

Cancer cells seen under a special microscope. Credit: PA

The 14-year UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) led by University College London (UCL) recruited 202,638 post-menopausal women aged 50 and over who were randomly assigned different screening strategies.

Professor Usha Menon, UKCTOCS co-principal investigator and trial co-ordinator at UCL, said:

There is currently no national screening programme for ovarian cancer, as research to date has been unable to provide enough evidence that any one method would improve early detection of tumours. These results are therefore very encouraging.

– Professor Usha Menon

Dr James Brenton, ovarian cancer expert at Cancer Research UK, said:

A blood test to find women at risk of ovarian cancer is an exciting prospect, but this work still needs to be tested in women to see if it can save lives.

By tracking how the levels of the CA125 protein change over time we might have an early signal to detect tumours. Ovarian cancer is particularly hard to spot at an early stage so it's vital that we find ways to diagnose the cancer sooner.

– Dr James Brenton