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Blood test may detect ovarian cancer two years earlier

Researchers have developed a screening test which could detect a type of ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than current tests.

The study, published in Nature, analysed blood samples from 80 people over seven years.

According to lead author of the study, Dr Bobby Graham from Queen's University Belfast, they found biomarkers for ovarian cancer in the blood and these were used to develop a blood test to detect it.

"Firstly, we discovered that the presence of the biomarker panel will enable us to detect ovarian cancer. We then developed a screening test to detect this biomarker panel, making this a relatively simple diagnostic test."

This new test identifies the likelihood of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) up to two years earlier than the currently available tests.

"The results of this study are encouraging," said Graham. "We now want to focus on testing it in a wider sample set so that we can use the data to advocate for an ovarian cancer screening programme."

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women in the UK, more common than cervical cancer. Around 7,000 women are diagnosed with it each year, the majority of cases occurring in women over 50. Sadly, most cases are diagnosed at a later stage when survival rates are lower as symptoms such as bloating often do not occur until after the cancer has grown or spread. There is currently no ovarian cancer screening programme available in the UK.

The study was jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and The Eve Appeal. Dr Rachel Shaw, research information officer at Cancer Research UK, called the results "encouraging". "Developing simple tests like these that could help detect the disease sooner is essential," she said.

"Sadly, so many women are diagnosed late, to devastating effect. We are hopeful the outcomes of this project will have a positive effect on women in the future," said CEO of The Eve Appeal, Athena Lamnisos.

This study was published in Nature.

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